Practical Mysticism with Linda Kavelin-Popov · ShiftWorkPlace

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E28 Practical Mysticism with Linda Kavelin-Popov

Bio for Linda Kavelin-Popov

Linda Kavelin-Popov is the co-founder of The Virtues Project which is in over 120 countries, and the bestselling author of 7 books, including The Family Virtues Guide, with which she was featured on the Oprah show and many other talk shows. She is a columnist for Lana’i Today, and writes a column called Virtues in Paradise.

After attending St. Lawrence University and Columbia University, she became a psychiatric social worker, and later developed programs for suicide prevention in her private practice. She was a cultural change consultant to organizations such as Arthur Young International and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and served as a hospice spiritual care director.

Linda met her husband in a serendipitous way, with synchronicities which could not be denied. She has two sons and five grandchildren, and they live in Lana’i, Hawaii.

Episode highlight

Linda Kavelin-Popov has crafted her life based on her beliefs and always followed divine guidance. Listen in on how she has received a lifetime of returns from a lifetime of service.



  • “My purpose in life as I’ve discovered it is to make the sacred accessible in everyday life. All of my books tap into the great wisdom sources of the world – all the sacred texts – which is really the source of all the virtues. They are the fruits of the spirit, they are the purpose of life, they are the qualities of the creator, they are the attributes of the human soul and spirit, and so they are universally valued.”
  • “As you act, you become a magnet attracting divine assistance.”
  • “The purpose of life as all religions tell us is to acquire the virtues.”
  • “I love that kind of real interfaith, not of just acceptance but enjoyment of different ways of seeing the world and seeing God.”
  • “It’s very very important to have sustainable relationships in your life where someone knows your story, they do not judge you, they support you and they love you unconditionally.”
  • “It is so essential to our souls to connect with other people, not just stand beside them all those years but to really know – who is this person?”
  • “To stand on your holy ground, you need one foot in one virtue and one foot in a balancing virtue. So, empathy is balanced by detachment and acceptance. Forgiveness has to have justice, they go together. You can forgive another person, but you need to also forgive yourself by standing in a place of justice – ‘How can I have boundaries, so I don’t allow myself to get into that place again?’”
  • “I’ve learned that we all, universally, value the virtues, even if we practice them differently.”
  • “I think we have to be very authentic if we’re going to work with other people.”
  • “I think asking questions is a very important part of any trusting and enjoyable relationship.”
  • “We need a culture of appreciation.”
  • “If we all could begin our lives by feeling that we’re being honoured as a human soul… we will then have so much more to give to the world and so much capacity to tap into our own unique gifts.”
  • “I’m very grateful for what I went through. I’m grateful for my suffering and I’m grateful for what I don’t have because it made me much more aware of what other people needed and it made me who I am.”
  • “Every adversity we go through can turn into a strength.”
  • “We’re going through a major teachable moment as humanity because everything is changing and we’re entering this world of the unknown. We need a whole new world and we have an opportunity to create that. And so, virtues are a path for moving into a better future.”
  • “We need more compassion; we need to really rethink and reset the inequities of the world.”
  • “Whatever our beliefs are, we all need a routine of reverence, a routine of reflection.”


Childhood incidents:

One of the most defining moments of Linda’s life was when she was 5. She remembers circling her backyard slowly, praying, “God, when I grow up, please let me help people.” She followed that calling into social work and into creating The Virtues Project based on respect, love, and service.

Raised in the Baháʼí faith, Linda and her brothers did not conform to racial divides in their Long Island elementary school cafeteria. Even though they were teased, they sat with their friends at the lunch table, irrespective of their races. They also learned to be tolerant of other children’s lack of understanding of their behaviour.

At the age of 12, Linda gave a talk to her friends about oneness of humanity and the equality of men and women. Even though it was a tough audience, interjected by two young men who came to challenge her ideas, she welcomed their questions and overcame her fear of speaking in public.

Groups you were born into and belonged to:

The most influential group Linda belongs to is the Baháʼí community. She was raised as a world citizen, called to be of service to humanity. Since her mother struggled with psychological issues and her father travelled a lot, the Baháʼí community gave her the encouragement, love and mothering she craved for along with “a sense of worthiness”.

Refusing to accept racial discrimination as it prevailed in the USA, she made the African American community her own, reading books on the topic and serving on the boards of their companies. She has also always had a strong sense of sisterhood – with the Lana’i women’s circle she started, the women’s retreats she held and the British Columbia Sisters of St. Ann group she was welcomed into. “Friendship is essential to me”, she states.

Temperament and personality influences

Learning how to listen to her mother in her severe depression since the age of 4 inculcated empathy in Linda. 10 years ago, when her brother/best friend/colleague, John, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she found his pain unbearable. He advised her to trust and not to let empathy get the better of her because he noted, “I have the pain, but you are the one suffering!”

Linda believes that “life on earth is spiritual school’. She has a rich inner life, a strong reflective practice of prayer and meditation and continually seeks teachable moments in life. She defines herself as a practical mystic, someone who asks for divine intervention and acts on it practically once she receives clarity.

A time I became aware that my way of doing things was cultural and specific to my cultural experience

Linda realized that her family was unique in that they would discuss the big questions of life even with children. When she visited her friends’ houses, their parents would be surprised by her answers to questions about God and world unity.

Befriending people of different faiths has been an enlightening experience for Linda. Over her travels, she realized that Europeans frown upon religion whereas Australians are open to learning about verses from sacred texts. She finds it interesting that even though people want to learn about virtues, they do not want to discover their spiritual source.

When Linda conducted in-depth healing retreats for first nations men who were in treatment for alcoholism, she was surprised with the tenderness they exhibited. She realized that she was holding a preconceived notion about men and their ability to trust.

Linda was working with the cabinet of the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, where children are taught in school not to speak up. When she would ask questions during a seminar, she would be met with silence but she learned to put them in small circles so they could speak freely and discover their virtues.

A way in which Linda connects with people across cultures is by building trust and a sense of safety. She reveals an authentic story in her life, a teachable moment she is experiencing, and how virtues are helping her. “I reveal myself, and I listen,” is her mantra.

Advice to an employer to work with me

Linda thrives on mutuality. She wants both people in a conversation to be listening and contributing. She appreciates questions because it shows interest in her beliefs and feelings. She dislikes feeling misunderstood, misquoted, or made assumptions about.

More great insights from our guest!

In 1988, Linda co-founded The Virtues Project with her husband, Dr. Dan Popov, a pediatric clinical psychologist and her brother, John Kavelin, a Disney Imagineer. Wanting to be of greater service to the world as a family, they were inspired to create a project based on a set of 5 strategies to bring virtues into all aspects of people’s lives:

  1. Speak the language of virtues to bring out the best in one another because “language shapes character” – ACT (Appreciate, Correct and Thank) with tact.
  2. Recognize teachable moments so people can aspire for virtues instead of feeling ashamed of the lack of them.
  3. Set clear boundaries based on restorative justice – make amends in your life, not excuses.
  4. Honour the spirit – treat every human with the dignity they deserve while nurturing your own spirituality.
  5. Offer spiritual companioning to help people along on their journeys.

You can purchase Linda’s books and the virtues cards from and Look forward to her new book, The Freedom Season: Dreaming at the Crossroads, coming soon!


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Linda Kavelin-Popov has taken the virtues she learnt from her childhood experiences and her faith and created a beautiful project which will help people across the world find meaning and solace in their own lives.


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