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Marta Hobbs Details Her Pursuit of the American Dream and Spiritual Enlightenment

Marta Hobbs was forced to abandon her old life to immigrate to America. Seemingly endless hardships greeted her. “Arriving in America at 13 was traumatic, lonely and terrifying,” she recalls. “I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know the culture, and with that I had to navigate junior high school in Brooklyn. It was almost like the rules of the game of life suddenly changed and I didn’t know how to play. I was also completely stripped of my identity and any sense of stability – leaving behind everything that defined me as a person (family, home, country). At the age when all we want is acceptance, belonging amongst our peers and to find our own tribe, I was beaten and bullied by girls in my school. I felt unwelcome, unwanted, misunderstood. It was a lot to deal with added to dealing with adolescence, which is already stressful! I missed home, my country, my language, my culture and my friends – things that were familiar. I missed knowing how things work and feeling comfortable. I felt like a fish out of water and every day felt like a struggle. School was very difficult, and I spent a lot of time doing homework with a dictionary falling asleep on top of my books. This was before the internet, so everything had to be translated manually – it took hours. Everything was new and challenging and had to be learned all over again – how to take the bus, how to go to the grocery store, how to dress, act and have conversations – even body language and facial expressions… What made it really tough was not having much guidance – my parents didn’t know the language or culture either and were dealing with the shock of their own navigating new jobs with similar challenges. In the early days, our whole family struggled and wondered if we had made a mistake. But there was no turning back.” 

Political violence drove them to leap off that metaphorical cliff into the bleak unknown. “The circumstances under which we left Poland were the reason. Although we arrived in the USA as sponsored political refugees seeking asylum, we fled our homeland illegally. With a small suitcase each and the cover story of going to Italy for the summer, we drove across the border not knowing if we’d ever be able to return. No farewells; no goodbyes; almost nobody knew. Because of the civil unrest and the tail end of the Cold War playing itself out on our soil – we were forced to run for safety when my mother was kidnapped in the middle of the night one day and taken to prison. She was missing for three days, and it wasn’t certain that she’d come back alive – others hadn’t. She was a journalist and when she refused to join the Communist party our family was considered a threat. Our phones were tapped, we were followed, our home was raided by the police. By the time I came to America I had already learned how to be brave and courageous despite the fear and terror constantly present in my life. As a child I had witnessed buildings on fire, tanks in the streets, martial law and injustice. The heart-breaking thing was that I hoped my new homeland would welcome me in with open arms and hold me tightly in safety. That was not my experience. And so, I felt lost, alone, confused and longing for home – all while quite young.” She was left to shoulder the heartbreak on her own, along with plenty of adult responsibilities. “While some nights I cried myself to sleep, other nights a force would come from within me and push me to persevere and work harder and figure things out. I became a warrior. At 14, I was not only a student, I was also cooking at home, cleaning, watching out for my sister, doing the grocery shopping and taking care of our dog. I had to – my parents were working all day – my father even worked two jobs to make ends meet. It was a hard life.”

Once the transitional period was behind her, the American dream lit a fire in her heart. “It was this incredible opportunity presented to me! Once I mastered the language and learned how to do life in the USA, I realized that in my new country, the possibilities for me were limitless. In America, I could do anything I wanted. I could become anyone I wanted. I could dream any dream and there was so little that stood in my way to make it a reality. My childhood was difficult, and then immigrating was such a painful experience – I finally had the chance to make my life into something amazing and beautiful. Why would I not go all in on that even if it wasn’t guaranteed? It was an incredible gift and so all my focus went into it. What could I build if there were no limitations?! I had come from a place where nothing like this was allowed – now it was mine for the taking. Of course, I said yes!” Nothing could stop her from reaching her goals. “I had overcome so much by the time I started my own business that I truly believed that with hard work and dedication – anything was possible. At the same time, doing, achieving and pushing-through were words which defined who I was. It was the only way I knew myself to be – so of course I would work hard and see how far I could get! That’s just what I did. It’s just who I became after immigrating. I think deep down inside it was a way for me to prove that I was good enough, that I was deserving, that I too could do great things. The deep wound which developed in me as a teenager – one of being the outsider, the one who doesn’t fit in – drove me to incredible accomplishments. However, it didn’t earn me freedom or belonging. And that’s also why, I believe, it all had to fall apart.”

Her life initially flourished beyond her wildest fantasies. “At first it felt great. At first it was more than a dream come true. I was experiencing things I couldn’t have even imagined – things I didn’t know existed! I studied broadcasting and landed my dream job at NBC in New York City just two years after graduating college. It was so exciting. I loved it. The business I started after my TV career took me to the Caribbean islands and that became the background for a decade of my life. It was incredible. I had a beautiful family. I had my health. We got the opportunity to build our dream home in Bucks County, PA and as our business flourished and grew – we were doing well financially. I got to travel to beautiful places and stay in amazing hotels. I lead a team of over 500 people spread across multiple offices in the USA. I got to build a company based on values I cared about – to give back, to give people a place to belong, to do something inspiring as a team. And I got to do it with my husband and to include our kids in it. It was a wild ride and a ton of fun. It was a life I had seen only in movies – the ones I got to watch once I arrived in America – the ones filled with color, not the grayness of communist-controlled places where I grew up. I couldn’t believe this was my life. I literally kept pinching myself over and over. It felt wonderful.” However, everything hit a wall when Marta was 38. Her mental health quickly deteriorated. She began to reevaluate her approach. “Looking back, I see this breakdown as a sacred doorway to another way of life. We moved to Paris, France where the pace of life was much slower. I stopped working and had more free time. My kids were older and needed more independence. I was suddenly in a beautiful place, a place I always dreamed of living, surrounded by new friends from various cultures whom I loved and all this TIME. Instinctively I wanted to fill it to keep the race going – that’s how I showed up in life – like a tornado! But things just felt off. It felt like just filling my calendar for the sake of staying busy. And ‘busy’ was praised and celebrated for so long! The old way of functioning just stopped working and I couldn’t unsee it or make it go away.”

It can be difficult to find your identity in stillness. “The fear I started to experience – which was what the panic attacks, anxiety and heart problems were – was the catalyst. I was forced to slow down and start asking some deep questions of myself. Who was I? When I stopped working, doing, racing, succeeding, planning, executing, coordinating, volunteering, mothering, solving problems, putting out fires and fixing everyone’s issues…. Who was I then? Who was I when I sat still? Who was I when I was BY myself and WITH myself? Which of the masks that I presented to others, which of the roles/jobs, which of the facades was the real me? The answers didn’t come quickly but as I started asking and living with the questions, my focus in life shifted. A new depth settled in.” Turning inward revealed a rejuvenated way of life. “I started looking for healing and learning more about health, wellness, emotional intelligence, the body, human brain, relationship, child development and going to therapy. I got certified as a yoga teacher, breathwork facilitator, yoga therapist, reiki practitioner, health coach… learning all kinds of new things! The path to healing became a spiritual journey and now, almost a decade later, I have found something more valuable than the answers I was initially seeking. I have found myself. And with this came a sense of belonging and freedom I was longing for – the kind that can never be taken – because it is rooted within me and not based on any external circumstances.”

Her company, SoulCare, extends that same peace to others. “SoulCare is a practice to slow down the body, quiet the mind, regulate the nervous system, come into stillness and reconnect with the soul. This is very difficult for most people who lead very busy and successful lives filled with stress. We work and live at a different speed and chaos surrounds us – we are used to it being there. We thrive off it. It drives us. When I first started my healing journey, everyone told me to meditate. But I didn’t know how to sit still, let alone not get distracted by my thoughts. I learned that I needed to downshift and teach myself how to switch gears gently and enter quietude and solitude in a way that wasn’t triggering. This is what I try to teach others. How to safely and in a trauma-informed way, get to the calm and peaceful place within. From there I take my clients on a journey to enter the sacred space of their soul – to connect with their hearts. Taking a few deep breaths and pausing in this space for a moment reminds us of who we truly are at our core, which I believe is sacred and whole. So, the SoulCare sessions are also a reminder of that – who we are deep under what we do and our exterior façades. It teaches unshakable inner peace and how to become the steady, grounded anchor amidst the storms and drama of life. Each session gives the participant the tools to do this practice on their own in order to keep living from this centered place and with an open heart. I believe this is the balance we need in the fast-paced world we live in. We need to slow down, tune in, connect to our hearts and check in with our souls – ‘how am I really feeling?’ ‘Is this still working for me?’ ‘Is all that I am doing in alignment with who I am right now?’ – sort of a spiritual tune up. We need these check ins regularly and then can go back out into the world and do what it is we do – but coming from a place where we are completely connected to our true self. Living out of a grounded, balanced and soul-led way where we get to express who we are and not define who we are by our jobs or what we do. That’s a huge difference. We are not our jobs. We get to express who we are through our jobs. It brings back a bit of sacredness into everyday life, which we have sadly lost along the way. SoulCare reconnects us to our true nature; it reconnects us to our own love.”

Healing ourselves and living a soul led lifestyle begins with self introspection. “We do this by understanding that life is an inside-out process. That everything outside of us is just a projection of what we feel on the inside. The only way to truly heal is to slow down and turn inward – take the journey from the head to the heart – and reconnect to ourselves there – in the sanctuary of our soul. Rather than constantly living out of the mind (thinking, calculating, planning, scheduling, analyzing, organizing) – we need to sense and feel; to connect to the body and its wisdom; to allow for not-knowing to be okay and for life to unfold and flow. The answer isn’t controlling circumstances and people in order for us to feel okay – the feeling okay needs to already be there – inside of us. Healing and wholeness allow us to be grounded and centered despite external circumstances. And once we are completely rooted in who we are – which I believe to be our soul – the storms that come our way don’t rattle us as much. There is a new sense of calm and peace that stays with us no matter what. That is freedom – the kind which cannot be taken away. And that is living soul-led. Doing everything, making every decision in life, from that grounded, centered, peaceful place. When we lead ourselves and live life from the heart – we just can’t go in the wrong direction. Everything has its purpose and there is a greater trust in life itself. It is a beautiful way to live. Slowing down, breathing deeply and intentionally and coming back into the body are the way to begin. It really is radically simple and how we were meant to live in the first place. As I like to say: ‘We have forgotten how sacred life is and what a gift it is to be alive.’ Remembering is the answer.”

Marta chose to document her extraordinary life in her new book, Unraveling. “Unraveling is a memoir – my story, told my way. It is a journey towards what I carried under the façade I presented to the world – my unspoken pain, and the unspoken pain so many of us carry and run from for most of our lives. It’s about the trauma in my body and what it looks like to finally face it and heal it. My very own unraveling, which happened after I chased all the things the world told me would make me happy. But the emptiness and disappointment of ‘having made it’ shattered my heart. And the crisis, the burnout, the exhaustion, the shock of it all led me to a sacred doorway – the path within – breaking open, breaking through and eventually breaking free. In my search for answers, I found myself. The book describes what it is like to grow up in communist-controlled Poland and to flee one’s homeland as a child. It talks about what it is like arriving as an immigrant teenager in America and starting over as a foreigner. I share deeply about the pain of that experience and how it shaped me for the rest of my life. As well as the race and chase it set me on – to achieve great things in life to prove my worth. To others, but most of all to myself. Then of course I talk about growing my business and what a wild ride that was – and then what happens when the reward at the end of the race isn’t exactly what you expected. Who are you outside of what you achieve? I lost myself in the ‘becoming’ and needed to find my way back home – to my soul. The book is divided into the external and internal journey – which is an idea I find fascinating.” She felt compelled to address our silent battles. “It is important for me to share my journey because what I know for sure is that we all suffer. The details and circumstances might be different, but we all struggle at some point in our lives. I want my story to offer hope and to be a guide for those needing help along their way. I have been through a lot, and I have learned lessons and gained wisdom on my path. I felt like it was time to offer that up in service of others. Every word in this book is straight from my heart, in the hopes that it can touch the heart of those reading, who need to hear exactly what I have written. It is my gift to the world – and it gives my own pain purpose. This helped me make meaning of my own suffering, and my suffering became something beautiful instead. In sharing my journey, I found even deeper healing – it became my calling.” 

Sharing her perspective as a childhood refugee was top of mind. She needs other immigrants to know that no one is ever truly alone.  “I wanted to also shine a light on the immigrant experience, which was traumatic for me as a young woman. I know there are other refugees out there who will know first-hand about the feelings and experiences I describe. I want to validate them. I want to make them feel seen and understood. Because I know how much I wished for that while I was just trying to survive it. It was hard. I wanted to share with those who never went through something like fleeing their homeland what happens inside of a person who does. I wanted to open my heart wide and give words to it – for others to feel it.” The highs and lows of being an entrepreneur also take center stage. “In the same way, I wanted to speak to men and women in leadership – those trailblazing, innovating and taking the world by storm. I wanted to share my experience in business and entrepreneurship and the burnout and exhaustion it caused – because I overlooked my own needs and lost myself in the pursuit of building an empire. That was painful and difficult too – and it could have been avoided. So again, I want to share what I wish someone told me when I thought my job defined me – our identity is in something much deeper and much more powerful. I wanted to bring the brilliant leaders of today back to a connection with their souls – to nourish them spiritually. Because I believe a heart-centered leader can have a massive impact on his/her organization, its people and therefore the world. We need more conscious and purpose-driven business and I want to redefine what success looks like in the corporate world – including the wellness, wholeness and authenticity of each individual; mind, body and soul. Our health is suffering because of how hard we push. This has to stop.”

Spirituality guides us to a softer and gentler existence and a renewed vantage point for the road forward. “Lastly, I wanted to share what a spiritual awakening looks like and what it means for a person to live connected to their soul and how that impacts their life and the lives of those around them. My life changed dramatically after I stopped trying to fix myself in a constant pursuit of arriving at a destination called ‘healed.’ Accepting the invitation to go deeper and seeing that the old ways of living were simply finished for me allowed me to embrace change and the idea that life simply has seasons and sometimes they end. I wanted to talk about the discomfort of growth – but also the magic, peace and joy that await on the other side. There is such beauty in letting go, in leaning into the unknown and in trusting that we are held on our journeys by some greater force beyond us. Living soul-led allows for living out of an overflow of love – and for me, that is how I want to live life every day. It finally feels good. I am thankful for every step it took to get here.” If you take the time to nurture yourself as Marta has, beautiful rewards await you. 

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Marta Hobbs Details Her Pursuit of the American Dream and Spiritual Enlightenment. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marta Hobbs.

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