On/File: A Continuing Record of People, Groups, Movements, and Events Impacting Today’s Religion

Peoplehood is a spinoff of the spiritually oriented exercise company SoulCycle, but without the workout. The fledgling company, founded by SoulCycle entrepreneurs Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, conferred with psychologists, spiritual leaders, and scientists during the pandemic and started the first Peoplehood sessions last summer. The theme of connecting with others without the exercise came to Cutler and Rice both from the isolation of the pandemic and the poor state of discourse in America—particularly on social media. The meetings are similar to individual and group therapy sessions but are not led by a professional therapist. Rather, trained guides work with clients on “self-care” and community in sessions that include spiritual techniques and concepts. A typical session will begin with breathing exercises followed by the introduction of a theme for discussion. Participants are instructed to listen actively to each other without interrupting, using hand signs to show their support for what is said. Then the group splits up into different pairs where they receive prompts on the topic and can speak for three minutes uninterrupted. Then people share their reflections back in the main group, followed by light stretching to soothing music. Author Amanda Montell, who critiqued SoulCycle for its “churchiness,” casts an even more skeptical eye on Peoplehood. “Putting your physical fitness in the hands of spinning instructors feels like less of a risk than putting your spiritual, psychological, and emotional health in the hands of someone trying to build and scale a giant business,” she said. (Source: New York Times, May 8)