“DEI” (a.k.a. diversity, equity, and inclusion) has become something of a buzzword in recent years, with more and more U.S. employers taking steps to incorporate DEI practices into their workplaces to better enable them to walk the walk when it comes to living their organizational values. Meanwhile, as DEI has taken hold as a north star in more and more American workplaces, it has also evolved to add another letter and dimension to the acronym, becoming DEIA, with the A representing accessibility for disabled people.
But while the push for DEIA has gained greater visibility in recent years, DEIA efforts are frequently discussed at a surface level—relegated to a mandatory employee training after which everyone moves on and checks the box without thinking too deeply about what it’s all about. So as Off-Kilter continues our ongoing series of conversations digging into why, in the famous words of Audre Lorde, self-care is political warfare, our next episode takes a deep dive into the movement to embed diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility into workplaces across the United States, and how DEIA fits into a broader conversation about radical self-care. Rebecca sat down with Leilani Manulu, a DEIA visionary and facilitator, to go beneath the surface and explore why the movement to embed DEIA into our workplaces—including and especially within organizations working towards social justice—is core to radical self-care.
After they talked DEIA, Rebecca and Leilani spent the second half of the episode delving into another critical component of radical self-care that Leilani is also a deep expert on: intuition, and how tuning into and listening to one’s intuition shows up as a self-care practice. Her credentials when it comes to intuition? In addition to working as a DEI facilitator, Leilani is also a practicing intuitive and shaman who supports intuitive leaders in reconnecting with their spiritual truth in service of guiding their organizations to be more intuitive, imaginative, and heart-centered.
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REBECCA VALLAS (HOST): Welcome to Off-Kilter, a podcast about the fight for economic liberation and what it will take to set us all free, powered by The Century Foundation. I’m Rebecca Vallas, and I’m a former legal aid lawyer turned policy advocate who works with public policy and law, as well as organizing, coalition building, and narrative as tools for building a more just society, one premised on collective consciousness of our common humanity and the inherent dignity and rights that come with being human. Every week I talk with visionary leaders working to disrupt the off-kilter imbalance of power in the U.S. to build a society where everyone can thrive and experience the shared abundance we all deserve.
And as we continue Off-Kilter’s series of conversations digging into why, in the famous words of Audre Lorde, self-care is political warfare, I am incredibly excited to share this next episode with you all, taking a deep dive into the movement to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into workplaces across the U.S. and how DEI, as it’s often called, fits into a broader conversation about radical self-care.
DEI has become something of a buzzword in the U.S. in recent years, with more and more employers, particularly within progressive spaces, taking steps to incorporate DEI practices into their workplaces to better enable them to walk the walk when it comes to living their organizational values. Quick side note: As DEI has taken hold as a North Star in more and more workplaces, it has also evolved to add another letter and dimension to the acronym, becoming DEIA, with A representing accessibility for disabled people. And that’s how we’ll be exploring it in this episode.
But just like with so many conversations about self-care, DEIA efforts are frequently contemplated solely at a surface level, relegated to a training employees have to go to or a survey everyone has to take, after which, everyone moves on and checks the box without thinking too deeply about what it’s all about. So, that’s why I love getting to sit down with my dear friend Leilani Mañulu, who’s a DEIA expert and facilitator, to go beneath the surface and explore why the movement to embed DEIA into our workplaces, including and especially within organizations working towards social justice, is core to radical self-care.
After we talked DEIA, Leilani and I spent the second half of the episode delving into another critical component of radical self-care that she is also a deep expert on, and that’s intuition and how tuning into and listening to one’s intuition shows up as a self-care practice. Her credentials when it comes to intuition? Well, in addition to working as a DEIA facilitator, Leilani is also a practicing intuitive and shaman, which is actually how we first crossed paths. Now, since intuition isn’t a subject that’s allowed to creep into public policy and political conversations all that often, at least in modern times, as someone who spent decades as a deep skeptic myself, I feel the need to say to the skeptics out there, I’d urge you to tell your left brain to take a hike for just a sec and stick around for the whole conversation, even and especially if you’re wondering whether it’s for you. You just might be surprised. And without further ado, let’s go to my conversation with Leilani. [upbeat music break]
Leilani, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. This is super exciting to get to have this conversation on the air since you’ve been, I’ve been having a lot of fun getting to know you off the air.
LEILANI MAÑULU: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
VALLAS: I am possibly more excited than you for this conversation because in some ways, this is gonna be, in some ways, this is gonna be kind of a standard business Off-Kilter episode. In some ways, it’s really not, and in the best ways. So, I sort of said that up top in the intro, but I’m really excited for all parts of this conversation. So, in some ways, I think it’s fair to say that you are a little bit of a different type of guest than I have usually had on this podcast!
VALLAS: You’re not only someone who has worked as a diversity, equity, and inclusion speaker, facilitator, consultant, supporting all types of organizations and corporations and incorporating that type of practice into their work, but you’re also, you’re an intuitive leadership expert. You’re a practicing shaman, among other things. As we were talking about before we got rolling, you really kind of defy being put into one label or box. And as I’ve been coming out of the broom closet a little bit more myself on this podcast and in various professional spaces as a practicing astrologer, among other various woo disciplines—and I’m sure we’re gonna get into that later in this conversation—it feels right to start this conversation by mentioning that it’s actually the latter, the you as a practicing shaman piece that is how we actually met through a mutual friend who was a really, really, really gifted energy healer. So, I wanna give you the chance to kick off and introduce yourself a little bit for Off-Kilter’s listeners.
MAÑULU: Sure. Thank you so much, Rebecca. And first and foremost, I just want to commend you and your just support team and everyone because shifting and having these conversations about intuition in places that are not where it’s not so conventional to do so, I just want to commend you all because it takes a tremendous amount of courage and just willingness to stand up and be visible as our whole selves. So, first and foremost, thank you for having this conversation. Thank you for bringing me on. I’ve heard that many times that I’m not the traditional guest. [laughs] I’ve appeared on many podcasts at this point, and a lot of times, they’re like, “You’re just different than who we usually bring on.” But I do attribute that to a lot of the ways that I’ve moved through my professional and personal life just over the years.
So, I’ll just introduce myself a little bit. I started out in corporate, so I came from the aerospace industry. My undergrad is in accounting. My graduate degree is in leadership development. I have an MBA in leadership development. So, I came from a very buttoned-up corporate background. I have, you know, I’ve always gotten the messaging that a stable career with stable income was like the dream, the American Dream. I come from a family of immigrants, and so this very corporate, buttoned-up life was the, you know, I was making everybody proud.
And about, gosh, a decade ago, I started teaching emotional intelligence and really getting into the emotions of the work that I was doing. So, I was leading a lot of corporate leaders, executives through leadership development programs and coaching and things like that at a very reputable and large aerospace company. And I started getting into the emotional side of it and really understanding what does it mean to be a whole human as leaders, as people who are in charge of, that have the charge of ensuring that people in these workspaces are feeling safe and secure and all of that? And so, through that emotional intelligence channel, I started learning more about diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and really understanding that we are really lacking in a lot of ways. Mainstream U.S.-centric culture, professional—quote-unquote “professional”—culture was really failing a lot of people who are kind of left on the margins. And so, I dedicated a big part of my career to bettering that. I got called into a lot of hiring processes and programs to ensure that we were thinking about things from a more inclusive and more equitable lens.
And over time, [chuckles] I started tapping into this deep knowing within myself that I had known my entire life that I was deeply tuned into the universe, tuned into intuition. I’ve been channeling since I was a child without really knowing that’s what I was doing. And when I say “channeling,” I mean channeling messages from the unseen. And so, that cracked open. I mean, it was something that I had been doing pretty consistently over the last ten years or so. And then when George Floyd was murdered, it really, really cracked open, and I noticed a shift in our human collective that was going toward a place of courage, a place of transformation. We were all shifting together. And that was when I had to really start honoring the call of my spirit, my soul, and continue to do the work that I was doing professionally while also pivoting into something that was more holistic, more healing. And that’s when I decided to quit my corporate job and pursue shamanism.
And now I’m in a place where I’m balancing both of those lenses, both of those hats, and supporting leaders and entrepreneurs and just intuitives, really, around connecting to the call of their spirit in order to bring our world forward, to bring our human collective forward. So, I think that’s, if you can believe it, that’s the condensed version [delighted laugh] of my path and who I am and continue to do that work. I’ve published a book. I have a podcast. I am trying to make myself as visible as possible to be of the most support as possible in this world.
VALLAS: And Leilani, thank you so much for sharing all of that. And I do believe that it’s the condensed version ‘cause I happen to know some of the longer version! But I also, it’s funny because when you and I were brainstorming around how to structure this episode, we sort of were thinking, okay, well, the first half is talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion and your work there, and then the second half is intuition. But in a lot of ways, I don’t know that the two are gonna be separable throughout this conversation.
MAÑULU: Yeah. [chuckles]
VALLAS: So, I kind of wanna throw out the separation and the boundary there and say, nope. It’s all linked. Because as you were just describing your own path, right, it was actually getting back in touch with, tuning into your intuition that helped you to make some of the shifts in your career path that you were just describing. So, I feel like before we get too much farther, we probably need to do a little bit of definitional work. And one of the terms you just used is one I wanna start with. And so, let’s just do a quick little sidebar, and emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence, for anyone who’s like, “I don’t know what that is. I know about other kinds.”
MAÑULU: Yeah, well, there’s so much content now. I mean, emotional intelligence was really, became really mainstream in the ‘90s. Daniel Goleman is kind of like the rock star of emotional intelligence, so pretty much anything that he writes, he’s kind of become an authority on emotional intelligence, and kind of in a roundabout way, Brené Brown as well and the work that she does. But at the end of the day, all that emotional intelligence is, is really understanding the four parts of emotional intelligence. So, there’s self-awareness, self-management, there’s social awareness, and then relationship management. And emotional intelligence really just means at the best that we can, given our strengths and emotional intelligence, mastery of those parts. So, am I aware of what’s happening emotionally within myself? Am I able to manage that in a way where I’m honoring that awareness when I’m bringing that externally? And then with the social awareness, am I empathic? Am I picking up on the emotions of others? And how am I managing relationships with that information?
So, emotional intelligence really is just about understanding who we are, who we are in the world, our place in our social circles, how do we manage the emotions of others without sacrificing my own experience? So, that’s really kind of a short version what emotional intelligence is. And it’s a really powerful tool, really, for everybody that I support, but especially for leaders. Because if leaders are not aware of the ways that their emotions are playing into the ways that they are leading, the ways that they are engaging with employees, especially those who are historically marginalized and minoritized, it can be really harmful. The ways that I coach leaders is really to do it from a place of to lead, to help them lead from a place where they’re doing no harm. And if we’re not actively centering how our emotions are showing up in the ways that we behave in our positions of power, then we are doing harm whether or not we’re intending to. So, yeah.
VALLAS: I can’t think of a better way to kick off this conversation ‘cause we’re gonna end up pulling on so many of the threads that you’ve just started to weave together. So, I wanna stay with a little bit of definitional work here and start by laying some of the foundation for talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I wanna also just note that in the disability rights and justice circles that I frequently move in, this is sometimes called the DEIA, with the A standing for accessibility. So, DEI or DEIA, depending on what people call it, has become something of a buzzword in recent years. It gets talked about actually a lot, at least in progressive spaces, which is a great thing in certain regards, although sometimes it’s kind of a superficial or a check-the-box invocation that it gets. So, for folks who might be familiar with the term but who aren’t really sure what does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean in practice, how would you explain what this DEI or DEIA thing is all about?
MAÑULU: Yeah. So, you did a great job of spelling it out. I think that’s the first part, is let’s make sure that we’re on the same page about the acronyms. And without necessarily going into detail with each and every acronym, I’m actually going to do something a little different. I’m just gonna talk to you about what DEIA means to me when I engage with people, with organizations, with individuals. So, for me, the DEIA really just means belonging. Like, at the end of the day is, do I belong to myself? Do I belong to this organization? Do I belong to my team? And how do we as individuals, whether we’re in positions of power or not—quote-unquote “not” because technically, we all have power—but if we’re in formal positions of power, how are we ensuring that people experience a sense of belonging wherever we are? And that sounds simple. It’s incredibly not simple, and it’s incredibly nuanced, right?
So, when we think about belonging, well, what does belonging actually mean? It means that’s going to be different for every single person. And so, really, the difficulty of this work is that we have to be able and willing to see each and every person as a unique individual with a unique experience, with a unique background, family of origin, different relationships to immigration, things like that so that we can create spaces and places and gatherings and teams where people feel as though “I truly belong here.” And that’s difficult. That can be really difficult, especially when that’s not historically how we have approached work. Work has been about productivity; it’s been about profit. Historically, it’s been about like, what can we produce? And the call that so many of us are feeling these days, especially as Black and brown folks, as women, as folks—myself, I’m invisibly disabled. I’m a queer brown woman—it’s like for those of us who are navigating these spaces, how are we engaging? How are we calling forward our own sense of sovereignty and ensuring that we’re standing in a place of power in the ways that we’re engaging with our own belonging, and also calling forward leaders and organizations to create spaces where that’s possible as well?
I truly personally believe that DEIA is everybody’s responsibility, and yet historically, it’s fallen on historically marginalized and minoritized communities to call that forward. And so, I, as a brown woman and really understanding the privilege that comes with that, I do everything I can to create safe spaces for Black folks, for people who are visibly disabled. So, I understand my privilege within that spectrum, and I try to create spaces of belonging every single place that I go and every space that I enter.
VALLAS: Even just starting this conversation by invoking the word “belonging,” I have to say that might be one of my absolute favorite explanations of what usually is described as an acronym means in practice. So, thank you for grounding us in, really in something that’s values based and something that people can feel in their hearts. How, in your understanding of it, how in your experience—and you started to get into this, but I wanna put a finer point on it—how does this work—diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility—how does it fit into a conversation about radical self-care, which is the overarching theme of this season’s conversations?
VALLAS: And another way of maybe asking that question might be like, how does DEIA support self-care in the workplace? Or by contrast, how does an employment environment that lacks an intentional awareness or an intentional North Star of DEIA do harm to self-care in the workplace? And I realize you’ve got personal experience here. You might also have anecdotes from working on these issues over the years. So, take that anywhere you wanna go.
MAÑULU: Oh, my gosh. That’s such a good question. I actually, I recently did a podcast conversation on The Conscious Cut, and we talked about— So, I’ll start here, I suppose: what it means to have self-care from like a DEI space as a woman who identifies as a minority, in the historically marginalized community. And so, for me, and what I said to these women as well, is that as Black and brown folks who now and many of us—and not just Black and brown folks, disabled folks, queer folks—so many of us who identify in these ways, we’re now in organizations and spaces that are saying, “Come as your whole self,” right? Like, they’re really, really trying, I think. I do believe that most organizations have good intentions around this. And yet, at the end of the day, a lot of times, again, the burden for a lot of these changes to become more inclusive, to become more of a place of belonging, tends to fall on people who are historically minoritized and marginalized. And so, what I would say to those folks is whatever that looks and feels like to you to take care of yourself, do that. Especially because so much of this burden has fallen on many of us over the years and over our lifetime, really. And so, I think that there’s…. And this is why, honestly—
So, I used to be a consultant full-time doing DEIA work, and I had to step away from it for my own self-care because it was…it’s, it can be so draining at times to be the one who is experiencing a lot of this harm while also trying to fix the harm within organizations, within leaders, etc. And so, first and foremost, I would say listen to your body. If you do identify as any type, whether you’re a woman, whether you’re, like, if you identify as historically marginalized or minoritized in any way, what is your body telling you, right? So, what I had to realize myself, what I had to kind of reckon with, was I was very proud of the work that I was doing in this space. I feel like we made tons of strides in my organization that I was leading doing this work, and yet I would wake up with anxiety attacks. I would wake up thinking that or just feeling in my body this fight or flight mode because I had to do a workshop with mostly white folks who weren’t quite understanding or didn’t really welcome me into that space, right?
So, I would say—and this goes for any kind of radical self-care—is what is my body telling me? We undervalue and we under, I don’t know, like underestimate the wisdom of our bodies, right? And we, especially those, I mean, this is so prevalent within women that I’ve worked with, too, for survival, we have had to disassociate from the parts of our bodies that are ringing alarms, right? In order for us to move forward at work, whether that’s at work, whether it’s in personal relationships, whatever, we have navigated so much trauma that our bodies have gotten into a survival mode where a lot of times, we can’t even connect with our bodily emotions, our sensations, whatever. And so, I would say the first step of radical self-care always will be to breathe, to find stillness, to begin to connect with our bodies. And that can mean sensually too. I mean, I’m a survivor of childhood trauma. And there were a lot of times where I couldn’t connect to my own sensuality for survival and for safety. And so, that would be like my first. And ensure that you have a therapist or whatever kind of support that you need to do that. So, that’s kind of my, that would be my first steps for people who identify as historically marginalized, minoritized.
And so, the other side of that is how do those in the dominant group— And again, I do identify, like, I understand I have privilege. So, as that part of me, how do I practice radical self-care? Those of us who are kind of torchbearers who are driving this—and I know, Rebecca, you’re one of them, it’s like—who identify in some ways in the dominant group but are kind of driving this forward, you also need self-care. Like, you also need to take care of yourself. Because kind of in the same vein of like, do no harm, I had a really wonderful workshop that I attended recently, Laura Van Dernoot Lipski, who wrote Trauma Stewardship, and her entire workshop was to therapists and basically those in helping professions. And she was like, “You cannot do good work if you are burnt out, period.”
So, what does it look like for you who are doing this work, who are doing good, good work, what does it look like for you to take care of yourself? Because as much as you want to have positive impact, you cannot do so from a place of depletion. It’s just, it’s not possible. And regardless of your intentions, regardless of how much you can run on E, on empty, you just cannot do your best work if you’re doing that from a place of depletion. So, what does that look like for you to begin to, again, listen to your body, to understand, okay, what does it look like for me to fill myself back up? And that work, that really tough, important work is going to be there tomorrow. It’s never going to stop. I mean, not anytime soon. And so, what does it look like today for me to pause, to go walk in the woods, to take a long bath? It’s not selfish. It’s necessary. It’s necessary for us to all work together, to first take care of ourselves in order to take care of the very important work that we have ahead of us.
VALLAS: Yeah, I love all of that. And I wanna come back to the being in the body piece, because that’s gonna be a perfect segue into talking a little bit about intuition in a deeper way, and it’s also a very big piece of my own personal journey. So, we’ll put a pin in the body piece and come back to that.
But I wanna stick with this DEIA piece for just one minute longer and say that part of what we have been trying to do with this series of conversations for Off-Kilter around radical self-care is we’ve been trying to bridge the what is the stuff that people as individuals can do, quote-unquote “should do,” might be able to learn from each other when it comes to radical self-care? And then some of what we’ve also been talking about—and so, this is where it’s been sort of a bridge—is what are the collective structures and systems and policies and ways of doing things that need to be changed and fixed, and which are, frankly, making us all sick, and in the name of radical self-care, need to be examined and interrogated with fresh eyes now that this concept of self-care has become such a buzz word, although usually, pretty superficially? So, just thinking about that sort of structural level, and again, staying with the category of folks who maybe are in positions of power, maybe these organizational leaders who are saying, “Okay, we’ve gotta do a DEIA process for my organization,” how would you connect that type of process, that type of thinking, that type of North Star within an organization’s attempt to live its own values to a broader conversation about radical self-care more at the macro level?
MAÑULU: Oh, man, you have such good questions, Rebecca! I mean, so, the first place that my mind goes is accessibility, honestly. So, when we talk about structures and what’s in place, the first thing that we need to really consider is that from a mental health perspective, I think we are in, I mean, maybe not the biggest crisis we’ve ever experienced in terms of mental health, but maybe just the most spotlight that we’ve ever had. And so, what I would say to organizational leaders is, what are you doing, not to expect employees to come forward with their accessibility needs, but what are you doing to say, “Hey, here we understand that accessibility is really important, and here are some options,” for instance.
So, personally, so I said I’m invisibly disabled. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and I have my entire life. And so, what I think that organizationally, what would have supported me when I was in formal organizations would be to really have leaders and have systems in place that would acknowledge that part of me as a whole human before I had to disclose. So, I did disclose it at times because I had to, because when I was working through my pregnancy, I had postpartum depression. I could not function in the same ways that I had. I basically kind of put aside these parts of me that had struggled my entire career, and I got to a point where I was like, “I can no longer, I can no longer do my work.” I had an anxiety attack in the middle of an event that I was putting on for executives, and I had to bring it forward. What if organizations had systems in place that would support that before it became a crisis, right?
And so, what I would call organizations forward to begin to consider is partnering and hiring consultants from the disability space. And like all DEIA consultants, right? But especially folks from the disability space, because that, I think, is one of the easiest? I don’t know if that’s the best word, but maybe one of the easiest ways to begin to question the structures that we put in place for years and years and years that have completely just disregarded the needs. And to be clear, every single person, in some way, shape, or form in their lifetime will have some sort of accessibility need, period. Whether it’s early in life, whether it’s later in life, whether it has to do with mental health, whether it’s temporary disability, whether it’s pregnancy. I mean, we all will have to deal with this. So, what better way to do that than to begin to bring people into your organization to really help you reckon with where have we been really ableist in the ways that we’ve been engaging with our community, with our employees? And how can we begin to rectify that? How can we begin to make these places safer and more, again, more welcoming, more of a sense of belonging for everybody, every single stakeholder that we engage with? Yeah.
VALLAS: Yeah, I love that. I love that. And it’s a conversation we have a lot on this show, right? Every issue ends up being a disability issue because it isn’t just one in four Americans who live with disabilities. It is something that most of us will experience at some point in our lives, and particularly folks who haven’t experienced disability earlier in life, they’ll almost certainly experience it later in life, right?
VALLAS: So, it’s not an us and a them. But part of what was coming through for me, as you were saying that was also just that there’s a notion called universal design, right? The idea that when, so like, people are probably familiar with curb cuts as an accessibility tool, and it allows people who are in, say, wheelchairs, to move onto a sidewalk, right, as opposed to hitting on the curb. That’s something that younger folks might not remember a time before, but most of American history is before we had curb cuts. But that’s something that ends up being helpful to a lot of different types of people for a lot of different reasons, whether it’s people who are on bikes or people pushing strollers or, you know, and, and, and. And so, that’s just a very facile example of how leading with, thinking about accessibility can actually be good for everyone. And as you were describing, some of the things that end up creating a more accessible workplace for people with disabilities, including people with invisible disabilities like anxiety, like depression, as you named—and both things that I have experienced at different points in my life as well—what you end up with is a workplace that’s better for everybody. It’s healthier for everybody.
VALLAS: And it also is less likely to create the kind of burnout factory that we now understand is so pervasive, even among well-intentioned organizations, across the social justice sector, right? And so, that was some of what was coming up for me as you were saying that.
But, Leilani, I wanna get into, I wanna get back to the getting in the body piece that you started to bring up, and that’ll take us to the intuition side of the conversation. So, you mentioned up top, in addition to working on DEIA issues for many years, you are also a practicing shaman in addition to being an intuitive leadership expert. And part of how I like to describe my own connection to this world is I describe myself as a scholar of magic. Some people might call it the mystical. Some people might call it woo. And to be fair, this actually, as I said up top, this is not entirely switching gears from talking about DEIA in a lot of ways. So, but I am excited to sort of spend the balance of our time talking a little bit about this intuition piece because it rarely comes up. It’s rarely a “safe” topic—I’m putting “safe” in scare quotes—to talk about in political or public policy or even really most corporate and professional spaces at this point in kind of modern times.
And so, let’s get back into doing some definitional work and define what we mean by intuition. Folks, I’m gonna guess, I’m just gonna go ahead and see some of the eye rolls. Some people who are Off-Kilter’s usual listeners might be going, “Intuition? What is this? Why are they going into this woo stuff?” So, let’s kind of ground this before we get too far into this conversation. Intuition is something that gets talked about a lot, but it can mean a lot of different things to different people. So, what does intuition mean to you? How does it show up in your life? Start us off there.
MAÑULU: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. [laughs] Let me describe just the most important thing in my life and work right now. Intuition, it’s such a broad topic. But I’ll start with the definition of intuition is really, it’s the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. That’s really all intuition means, is like, can we gather information, gather data without needing it to be quote-unquote “logical,” without needing it to have some kind of rooting in what we describe as quote-unquote “evidence.” I do all of this in quotes because it’s just the way that we’ve been conditioned as a culture, as a world, is to really value the seen over the unseen, right? And so, my entire, kind of my schtick [laughs] to empower organizations, empower individuals, especially empower leaders to begin to consider that there’s more evidence, there’s more data, there’s more information to be gathered and to be considered as we’re making super important decisions that impact everything, right? That impact our policies, our structures, our organizations, the ways that we move about the world, in the ways that we move forward as a collective. Can we begin to entertain the idea that data that is unseen—quote-unquote “unseen”—is also something we should be considering? That’s it. That’s it.
So, really, what I support leaders around is to help them connect with their inner knowing, which is all that intuition is, is like, this is my inner knowing, is helping them connect with that so that they can have decisions that are balanced. Because over time, centuries upon centuries and thousands of years that have gone by, we have really gotten to a place where we’re valuing logic and reasoning and what is quote-unquote “seen” as the authority. And yet what I know and what I’m feeling in this moment as I’m connecting with my own intuition is like, that is very the divine masculine. And to the point now where we are so imbalanced in the masculine that it’s become toxic. So, what can we do to begin to bring that divine feminine back into balance? Which, divine feminine, all that really means is like emotions. It’s really valuing the unseen. It’s what are we placing on, you know, what importance are we placing on the earth and what the earth produces and the cycles versus linear time? And so, there’s this need and calling that’s bringing us to a place of requiring that balance. And intuition, our individual intuition is the way for us to begin to navigate that.
So, what could our world look like if leaders were actually not just looking at the facts and data that we know and that we’ve become accustomed to measuring? What if we also said, “Hey, I see all of this on paper, and yet my intuition is saying this isn’t the way to go,” right? And having a conversation from that. So, what does your intuition say? What does your intuition say? And can we begin to make decisions that are more balanced in the divine feminine over time? And that, I believe, and that’s what’s been communicated to me, because I am a spiritual medium, it’s like, that is what will kind of restore our world. And we see the ways that the old way of thinking, the old way of being where we’re really prioritizing these more masculine traits of decision making, where that’s just failing. It’s not working anymore. And there’s actually a question: What is it ever working, or were we just in a place of oppression and silencing that was keeping it kind of [chuckles] moving forward, even though truly, we’ve been perhaps moving backwards? So, that’s where my mind goes. But I’m curious, Rebecca, what is coming up for you in this conversation?
VALLAS: Yeah. Oh, God, there’s so many places we could take this, and I’m so glad we have a little bit of time to spend on this piece! Because this is not, as I said, this is not your standard Off-Kilter episode, but it feels like it sorta should be. It feels like this is the medicine that a lot of people need right now. So, let’s go for it. So, all right. I love where you kicked off. I love where you started us in terms of getting a feel for what intuition means. And without this being like a textbook definition, I’ll bring in what maybe feels a little more science-y to folks who are on the edge going like, “I don’t know. That feels really woo to me.” And so, let me bring up the brain. So, this might be a helpful framework for folks thinking about, “Well, what is intuition versus what is that logical, rational reasoning mind that you were talking about?” Well, folks are probably familiar with the fact that we have the quote-unquote “left brain” and the quote-unquote “right brain.” And that vastly oversimplifies how our brain works, but it is kind of a helpful framework for thinking about the different ways that we access and bring in information from our environment and from other sources.
And so, the left brain is the part that people are probably a lot more familiar with. What does that feel like? What does that do? In fact, today’s Western culture pretty much puts the left brain on a pedestal, right, along with the predominant post-Enlightenment, atheistic, materialistic worldview that you were describing that almost entirely eschews anything that can’t be seen or measured by modern science as quote, “not real.” So, left brain. Left brain, powerful tool for doing things like solving puzzles, for figuring something out, for creating a plan, for putting a grid together, right? Left brain, learning language. Left brain, very, very powerful. Really, really helpful tool.
The right brain is where the intuition that you were talking about comes through. And it’s also—and this is a helpful distinction, an important distinction between the left brain and the right brain in the ways that they function—the right brain is really good at having the bigger picture, at thinking holistically, at being able to see how everything fits together. And so, in a lot of ways—and this is I’m oversimplifying a lot of, you know, many, many decades of psychological literature here as the psychology college major who knows enough to be conversant in this stuff to some extent, but is not looking for anyone to cite me in how I’m describing this scientifically. But just for purposes of this conversation—the way that experts in the way that our brain works, the way the human brain works, say that theoretically, we would be at our best as humans when it comes to our mental functioning and acuity would be if the right brain was in charge, and the left brain could kind of work for the right brain as a tool. Because it’s the right brain that has that bigger picture. And connecting this to some of what you were just describing beautifully, that bigger picture includes a whole bunch of stuff that the left brain doesn’t have access to because it falls into that category of unseen or unmeasured or unmeasurable in terms of it’s not just data, right? It’s not just facts and figures.
And so, another way to think about this, and this is often how I describe this when I’m, for example, working with astrology clients—many of whom are in similar positions to the folks that you work with. They’re leaders within the policy sphere who are trying to figure out how to live in alignment with their values and how to get more out of life than just accomplishing one work thing after the next—it’s, I often will talk with folks about the difference between being in your head and being in your heart. And again, that’s a massive oversimplification, but it’s another framework that folks might be able to understand and resonate with if they haven’t thought a ton about intuition or maybe if they’ve dismissed it as just woo stuff, right? So, those are two frameworks that I will offer up. How does that land with you? Do you think about head and heart, left brain, right brain? Does that match with some of your understanding of intuition as well?
MAÑULU: Absolutely. And as you mentioned, I think it’s easy to kind of oversimplify because there’s no way to cut off, right, [laughs] like just from one side of your brain to go to the other or just operating from your heart space versus your head. But absolutely. What it made me think of is how my entire life I’ve been very much like the creative, intuitive, emotional. That has been my experience. I absolutely have this tendency to move through life prioritizing the wisdom of my heart over my head. And there’s a lot of trauma of kind of getting beaten down into like, “No, you need to be thinking about it this way.” Which is why I went to undergrad for accounting? Like, what the heck? That is so far from who I am and my strengths. And so, what I also wanna say is like, if this is something that you’re like, you know, “I want to access this, and yet it feels really hard,” can we all just kind of take a collective breath and say, “Okay. This world has conditioned us to prioritize the left brain, to prioritize the head thinking over the heart thinking.” There’s also the gut thinking, too.
And so, there’s, like, I think that we can kind of let ourselves off the hook a little bit about how difficult it might feel to begin to transition into a place that is more intuitive, because I’m guessing that many of the listeners that are listening right now are like, “I want that so bad, but it’s so hard. It feels hard for me to get out of my thinking brain and to get into my heart space and make decisions from that place. And even if I wanted to make that decision, how do I find the words? How do I act?” And let yourself off the hook a little bit because this is the world that we live in, and we’ve been conditioned to be in a place like this. And yes, absolutely. This is kind of our charge. This is why I do the work that I do. This is, you know.
And what I will also say is I work with a lot of leaders, too. Once they unlock that part—and these are people like engineering executives, right? Like, people who have built a career on being in their head and thinking with their left brain—and what I have observed in supporting them is once they kind of unlock their ability to tap into their intuition in the ways that they were always meant to, then it just makes—I just got goose bumps saying that—it makes the work that they do with their left brain, with their thinking brain, it’s just so much more expansive. And then they become these like, I don’t know, like it just, it’s like, so much more than they ever thought they could accomplish. Or the systems that they’re creating are so expansive and strategic and still very like, they’re still really, really wonderful at the things that they were always doing. But now they have this lens that they’re doing it from that is so much more encompassing of the work that they’re meant to do, if that makes sense. So, yeah.
VALLAS: It makes total sense. And ‘cause some of what you’re talking about, right, is it’s not about saying, “All right, I’m throwing away my left brain. I’m never gonna use that again. I’m only gonna use my right brain, or I’m only gonna use my heart or my gut, not my head.”
VALLAS: It’s the fusion, right?
VALLAS: It’s about how can these things work together so that each of them is doing what they do best? As opposed to trying to do everything through the left brain, which is at this point in Western human history, pretty much how, as you’ve been describing, we’ve been conditioned to think we’re supposed to live. I mean, I also resonate deeply with what you were saying in terms of it can be hard sometimes to find the words for saying anything you know when you know you know it, and also, you don’t have the email to point to or the pie chart or whatever that you can present. And so, sometimes people at work might be familiar with hearing me say that my Spidey sense is telling me. That’s a phrase I often use. Or I’ll say, “I have a hunch,” right? Or “I have a feeling. I feel.” These are all, they’re all language-ing for what you’re describing.
But Leilani, I also, as we have this conversation about intuition, I wanna connect it explicitly back to like, why are we talking about intuition in a conversation about self-care? Which might not be super self-evident to folks who are listening, especially for people who might be a little more skeptical, a little more the no, it’s only true if science tells me it’s true. And of course, that’s modern science, right? We have science from prior eras of human history that included things that our current scientific method would not necessarily validate. But talk to me a little bit about what intuition has to do with self-care. And some of that comes from your experience yourself. Some of that comes from some of the work you do with leaders and creatives. What are some—and you were starting to describe—what are some of the benefits that you can gain in terms of like, increased creativity or more expansive thinking, right? But when it comes to self-care, what’s the connection? What’s your case to someone who’s listening and going, “Okay, but what does listening to my intuition or tuning in to my intuition have to do with self-care?”
MAÑULU: Oh, man. [laughs] I’m gonna just start every response with, “Oh, man, what a great question.” So, intuitively, this is kind of I’m going into my own story because this is what’s coming through as I’m hearing you ask the question, is I spent a lot, many, many, many years ignoring my intuition when I knew that my life was out of alignment. So, when I say “alignment,” I mean spiritual alignment, emotional alignment. I come from a family where you kind of grit your teeth, and you move forward. Like, very…downplaying the ways that our intuition—and for me it was my emotional experience—really downplaying the impact that that has on us. And so, I kind of mentioned I struggle with anxiety and depression. It was the worst that it had gotten in my life in 2020, right before my intuition really, really blew up. And I was hearing messages. I would be coaching executives, and their mother who passed away ten years ago would come forward with a message for them. And it was kind of wild the way that it was manifesting. And not coincidentally, I’m sure, that this was the time in my life where I was heavily medicated for my anxiety and depression. My son was two-and-a-half at the time, and I was really struggling with my role as a mother, with my role as a wife. I was married to a man at the time, and I just knew, I knew, I knew that I was not in a good place. I knew that this was not how I’m supposed to feel. So, or maybe a better wording is, this is not how I’m meant to feel, right?
And so, the way that when my intuition really started speaking to me, it was like, begin to notice the places where I’m quick to become really irritable or frustrated because that was the way that my anxiety and depression showed up. And so, in terms of self-care and my intuition. So, at first it was like listening to my body, noticing the cues that I was getting. I am more depressed and anxious than I’ve ever been in my life, and here are the circumstances that are surrounding me. I’m in a job that is, as much as I loved my leaders, the organization itself was very, like, taking everything for me. I just, I felt like an empty shell. And I was in a marriage where I was married to a lovely, lovely man who was not for me, right? And so, for me, my intuition kind of showed up first with my emotions, really listening to my body and seeing that this is not how I’m meant to live.
And then my intuition really began just talking to me, like my higher self, however people identify, but my inner knowing was telling me it’s time to begin to change things. It’s time. It’s time. It’s time. And it told me about for months, and I didn’t exactly know what that meant. But over the next six months, I allowed myself to just be led. I allowed myself to surrender to just noticing the signs, noticing where I was feeling energy versus where I wasn’t feeling energy, where I was feeling energized versus not feeling energized, where my creativity was leading me. And it led to toward the end of 2020, I had quit my corporate job. I had separated from my husband. And I started walking a path that was completely led by my intuition. And I don’t know if I could pinpoint a single time in my life other than that time where I was more focused on self-care than listening to my intuition to leave structures that I had put in place. I am not a victim. I had fully consented to the ways that this misalignment was contributing to my suffering. And self-care to me looked like listening to every single cue that my body had been trying to tell me for years, listening to my intuition that was telling me it’s time to get into alignment. And that, I mean, in terms of just taking care of myself, that is what happened.
And then fast forward three years, and I am in a place where I can no longer be in places where I feel like I’m not taking care of myself, whether that’s a relationship, whether that is a work opportunity. I turn work down all the time when I don’t feel like an organization is aligned with the ways that my intuition is leading me. And so, yeah, I mean, that’s the anecdote that comes forward. It’s very similar to a lot of the executives and leaders that I’ve coached and spiritually guided over the years of really tuning into intuition and what it means to be aware of our physical sensations, our emotions, and allowing that to be the place from which we begin to do the hard work of actually getting our life into alignment. And yeah.
VALLAS: Oh, I love that. I love that, and I love, I appreciate so much you sharing such a personal, so many personal stories in this conversation. Part of what was coming up for me as you were recounting that was the past couple of episodes that we’ve had of this podcast, this self-care journey that Off-Kilter has been on and that I have been on, which is why it’s coming through the podcast, we had an episode called Finding the Technique That’s Relevant for You with my dear friend and colleague Alex Lawson, talking about figuring out what it looks like to show up as yourself in this work as opposed to the way that other people might tell you or have conditioned you to think that you’re supposed to be, to be one of the professionals or the leaders in, say, public policy spaces or economic justice spaces. And then last week we talked with Emily Ladau and Alex Ashley Fox about the phenomenon of autistic masking and then the broader implications outside of just people who identify on the autism spectrum, right? All of, I feel like so much of that, there’s been kind of a throughline through these conversations that you’re really kind of bringing forward now of what does it look like to, instead of leading your life by comparing yourself to everyone around you and saying, “I should be like those people. I should be like that person,” it’s like, “what do I feel in my heart is right for me?” And then trusting that that is who you are meant to show up as, as opposed to the, “Oh, well, I’m supposed to do these things that other people do. And if I’m not doing it just like them, then I’m failing.”
There’s a quote that came up for me when I was prepping for this episode that I wanna bring in, because it really speaks to what I was just invoking. And it comes from a spiritual teacher from the 20th century named J. Krishnamurti. And I personally came across this quote in a book on numerology when I was learning that some time ago. It’s kind of the classic on numerology by a guy named Dan Millman. The book is called The Life You Were Born to Live. For anyone who’s ever been curious about numerology, it’s great. There’s a ton more in there than you would think. But the quote is, “We are raised on comparison. Our education is based on it. So is our culture. So, we struggle to be someone other than we are.” And I wanted to bring that in because just like, why is intuition relevant to a conversation about self-care? Well, it’s ‘cause when you’re trapped in your head—and I say this from my own personal experience as well, just to bring that in to sandwich what you were just offering, right—when you live solely based in your head, then you’re comparing yourself to other people is what you’re doing. And it takes getting in touch with the heart, getting in touch with the intuition to realize when that life that you have built is not in alignment, as you were describing. So, I don’t know if you have any reactions to that quote, but I know we’re gonna run out of time in a couple of minutes.
So, I wanna throw you one last question to close with, which is for anyone who’s listening to this and going, “Okay, you got me! I’m interested. I want to explore intuition!” And maybe folks already have been, and maybe some listeners are going, “Yeah, this is something I’ve been playing with, but I’m looking for a little more in the way of tools or tips or life hacks,” what are some ways that you might recommend that folks can get in touch with their intuition if that’s not already a consistent practice for them? Do you have any specific tips? And obviously, meditation is a big one, and folks are probably already thinking about that. I often recommend tarot to people, even if they’re not super woo. What tips do you have as we close out this amazing conversation for folks who are looking to explore more?
MAÑULU: Yeah. I mean, there are so many ways. What’s coming to mind is get a spiritual mentor. Get a spiritual guide. If you’re really serious about kind of breaking through some of these ways that we’ve been conditioned and prioritizing the thinking mind and all of that, the best way to do it is to work with somebody who can support you in that. I’m so grateful that the universe has kind of like plopped really powerful spiritual mentors on my path. But that would be something to consider. So, whether it’s a reiki master, or I mean, there are even people who support others in fine tuning intuitive gifts. I also work one-on-one with folks, but that would be, that’s kind of the first thing that’s coming through is like, what would it look like for you to begin to invest in your intuitive just understanding of yourself and your path and how to move forward through that? And I mean, just kind of a shameless plug, I have a podcast that I know that a lot of people have felt supported by in terms of connecting with their intuitive gifts. So, The Intuitive Catalyst is my podcast, and I know, I’ve been doing more solo episodes to support people in really understanding how to connect with their intuition. So, there’s that. And then I guess I’m just shamelessly plugging myself ‘cause I also offer workshops for people to get more attuned to their intuition as well. And I’ll be sure to include all of that in my bio and everything.
But I just think at the end of the day, we, I think we think we have to do it alone, and that’s beautiful. And there’s a really important place that solitude has in our work in stillness. So, like meditating, going out into the woods and just kind of wandering. I mean, don’t get lost, but you know what I mean? There’s so much of like, there’s so much richness in solitude. But the messages that I’ve been receiving a lot lately from the unseen is that we’ve been trying to do it alone, and that can only bring us so far. Our healing has to be in relationship. It has to be in the collective. So, how are you connecting with mentors, with community? What are you doing to begin to fine tune your own circle of your inner circle? Because the people that you share time with are also a reflection of how you are moving through this part of your journey as well. I’ve had to kind of say goodbye to people who were not in alignment with my spiritual journey and my intuition development. And so, that’s the message that’s coming through me, but I’m sure you have more to add, Rebecca. [chuckles]
VALLAS: Oh, I love it. And I wish we had another hour ‘cause there’s so much we could spend on just talking about intuition and how it can show up as a self-care practice. But no, that’s great. We’ll have links to all of your great resources in our show notes for folks who want to connect with you. And I’ll just put in a plug for folks who are on the fence, and they’re saying, “I don’t know that I’m ready to invest. I’m not sure that I’m ready to spend much time on this.” But little things like not being scheduled up all day, right? Actually having time where you get still, and that can be meditation. It doesn’t have to be anything quite— Meditation can sound scary to folks. It can be like, “I don’t know how to meditate,” or “oh, I can’t keep my thoughts from happening.” Just being still and being quiet and not being productive all day every day and not being scheduled up in, my God, it’s sometimes 15-minute increments in the work world today, I mean, even just that, building in a little tiny block of time every day or even a few times a week just to get still can be a really good first step.
And then I said it before, but I recommend it all the time, especially to folks who don’t identify as woo or magical types but who are looking for tangible practices and tools to help them escape from what I call left brain tyranny: tarot. Check out Tarot. Get yourself a deck. If you’re interested, you can reach out to me. I love nothing more than talking to people about how to read tarot and use it as an intuitive practice. But it can be a mirror for your intuitive mind, for folks who aren’t necessarily ready to just listen to what’s going on and who maybe aren’t yet at a place of saying they wanna trust. And so, because it offers you something to look at, which is cards that represent archetypes that are the universal archetypes of life, it can be a really helpful tool, and it’s something I often recommend to lawyers and professionals and others who are deeply skeptical of the woo. And the number of folks at this point who are now reading tarot and using it as their intuitive tool because I sort of shared it on the side is more than I can count, so don’t write it off just because you are not a super woo person.
Leilani, I have so enjoyed this conversation. This has been so fun for me. I wish we had more time, but I just wanna close with a lot of gratitude to you for taking the time and for sharing as much of yourself as you did with this episode. [theme music returns]
MAÑULU: Thank you so much, Rebecca. Rebecca, it’s been an honor, and I’m just so grateful for the work that you do. So, thank you.
VALLAS: And that does it for this week’s show. Off-Kilter is powered by The Century Foundation and produced by We Act Radio, with a special shoutout to executive producer Troy Miller and his merry band of farm animals, and the indefatigable Abby Grimshaw. Transcripts, which help us make the show accessible, are courtesy of Cheryl Green and her fabulous feline coworker. Find us every week on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your pods. And if you like what we do here at Off-Kilter Enterprises, send us some love by hitting that subscribe button and rating and reviewing the show on Apple Podcasts to help other folks find the pod. Thanks again for listening and see you next week.