Through the crowd of people trickling out from the lunch rush at Gjusta in Venice, California, I spot Neel van Lierop, the intuitive Dutch entrepreneur behind Inner Compass Cards. Designed around 49 life themes, these beautifully modern cards were developed to help people find direction in their lives and use as a tool for personal growth.
We sit in a quiet corner and begin chatting over tea when van Lierop brings out her cards and asks if I would like to pull one. “The reason why I believe in cards so much is because you picked a card blindly just now, and I believe that another intelligence takes over—you can call it subconscious or intuition, or some people call it the heart—and that is where the magic starts for me,” she says. As our conversation unfolds, van Lierop is refreshingly candid about how her company was born out of a challenging place of personal transition and out of a need to create something that could support her in putting her own growth into practice.
“It’s important to connect people to their inner compass,” she says. “There’s so much going on right now in the wellness industry, and I don’t believe in directing people to be a certain way. To me it’s finding your own way of what works for you.” It is clear that her cards are designed to do just that, acting as a mirror for self reflection, and offering messages of support in a way that empowers us to remember that the answers we are searching for reside inside of each of us.
She also shares the subtle yet powerful shift she experienced within herself that changed her way of thinking from making decisions based on outward ideas of how she thought her life should look, to turning inward and honouring her truth. You won’t find a typical long list of wellness rituals by this spiritual motivator and entrepreneur; instead, van Lierop talks about her simple, down-to-earth approach of nurturing herself by giving herself time to rest and get inspired in her own way. Thus she embodies the very same principles that she built her company around: trusting your intuition and embracing your individuality.
What Inspired you to create your brand?
I went to so many retreats, read so many books; I could have given lectures on “living in the now” and “not identifying with your thoughts and emotions,” but I was not living it and I was aware of that. I was ill, I had really bad insomnia, and I couldn’t even go to yoga or meditate anymore because my immune system and nervous system were in such bad condition. I needed a ritual, so I started using [pre-existing] cards every day and I was so amazed by how the cards knew where I was at in life. I saw that all the intentions that I had in terms of personal development were happening. I knew that I didn’t want to write a book or write trainings or online courses, so I asked the universe to give me something conceptual that I could work with. And when I was analyzing cards after a few weeks I realized, of course, it’s time for more stylish cards. It really felt like an epiphany.
And that is why I know that this is the right path for me: because I did not force anything, and the words came to me easily. After a while I was ready to find a designer, and we worked together on the images, which were really a co-creation.
How would you describe the aesthetic of the cards?
I noticed that I was hiding all the spiritual cards in my house because they weren’t my style, so I wanted to make a deck that would look really nice on a coffee table. I chose natural colours, and there is always one colour that is dominant and that is related to one of the chakras. It’s intuitive artwork, and people interpret different things than what we see as creators.
What is your favourite way to use the cards?
If you are new to using the cards, I recommend making it into a ritual. That’s how I started off: by drawing cards every day. I go through phases where I use them in the morning as a ritual, but there are also times when I only use them for specific questions; for example, I will use them when I’m on my way out the door to an important meeting to get some inspiration or some words that may help me. I like to go deep and take the opportunity to open up a blind spot. The cards can give you trust, confirmation, inspiration, and so much more.
Would you say you run your company with a traditional business mind or more intuitively?
I’m totally intuitive. I make every decision for the company (collaborating with people, hiring people) with my gut. And I hope that I can be an example for others as an entrepreneur, too, because it doesn’t have to be all about money, or exit strategies; if you really like what you do, there is no point in selling it. I have so many friends in tech that are always talking about selling their company and I’m like, “Go find and do what you love, and then there would be no rush to sell it.” Because I enjoy being with this.
What are some ways that you like to nurture yourself?
To me it’s finding your own way of what works for you. I don’t do yoga anymore, I don’t meditate a lot, but if I need it I will…in some periods of life I do it, some I don’t. I really like to go to the movies, that is what I do three to four times a week by myself. It’s really important to me to take a break and recharge myself—not when it’s too late, but before it’s too late. For example, I’ve had a really busy couple of weeks, but I took the last three nights to go home before 5pm to start Netflix-ing with chocolate. If I have a busy day today I’ll arrange my schedule to take the morning off tomorrow.
Having gone on this journey—delving deep into spirituality and wellness, reaching a low point, and then creating something beautiful out of that experience—how would you define “being well” today? Because it sounds like that definition may have changed for you over the years.
For me it has to do with living your own life. I think I was living this picture-perfect life on the outside, but after my breakdown, so to say, I started living from the inside and that’s what makes my life now so valuable and magical—because it’s my life. It’s no longer society’s life, my parents’ life, or my ex-boyfriend’s life. It’s authentic. Being well is being yourself.
Can you talk a little more about your new deck of Love Cards and what inspired you to create them?
They give guidance for all the relationships that we have in our lives—with your romantic partner, your friends, your child, your parents, your boss. Yesterday we did readings at goop.
My own love life was the inspiration for it. Love is both my weak point and my strength; if life wants to teach me, it is in love where it can teach me the most. Creating this deck was not easy, because I was working with the cards and went through a lot of processes with them. After a while I joked to my team, “We really have to finish creating these cards this week because I cannot handle any more [romantic] issues.” My editor knew all about my love life. Now I can laugh about it, but there was a time when it really felt like too much.
Just before the launch, I had a moment where I was lying in bed and I realized how many relationships can be saved with these cards, or consciously uncoupled, or people that could be brought closer together on different levels. That was a really beautiful moment for me.
This interview has been edited and condensed.