Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year again – when we look for renewal and reinvention, and we make resolutions to keep intentions we mostly have all year long. Why do we think we can keep them just because it’s a new year? Maybe a new year makes us feel like we have been given a new beginning, and we can forgive ourselves the old bad habits because we are committed to doing better now? While this is a hope-filled and optimistic feeling, it will be more than likely over-ridden by the emotion we have that drives the habit or behavior we want to get rid of in the first place! Because that emotion is probably stronger than the new intention! It is probably older, more ‘set’ in your body, and it’s history and ‘roots’ much more powerful. Interestingly, a recent scientific study in Portugal showed that in times of stress (such as the times we are in), we revert to habits we have formed even if they are destructive and actually cause more stress! (More on this in a future article – watch for it on this website.)

For me, shifting habits is of course as challenging as for anyone, but I have always found it to be amazingly helpful to journal write, especially at this time of year – to journal about the emotions that keep me doing things I don’t really feel good about. Journaling as in ‘stream of consciousness’ – NO judgment, just write what you feel – can be immensely clarifying and give great insight. When you have ‘emptied’ your emotions onto the pages and you feel your writing is, at least for the moment, complete, allow yourself to just sit with the emotion(s), get to know it/them. And breathe- long, slow, deep breaths.

When ready, get into that space in your body that feels good (usually in the heart and chest area). Breathe into it. Allow the emotions you wrote about to just melt as you breathe into the ‘feel-good’ feeling.

Then, on a new blank page (the naturally occurring metaphor here is difficult to ignore :-), write down where you would like to be one year from now; imagine your perfect life in a year – write it down. When I do this, I then give myself one practical step to take to move towards it – which I then carry out. (The changes I want then become manageable, step-by-step processes). If those sabotaging emotions start to appear again, I go back and journal about them and do the same process as above, again. Eventually, after a few times, even the most stubborn emotions will have ‘melted’ away completely! Quite an empowering experience! With the sabotaging emotions gone, any resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise, become so much easier to keep, I cannot imagine making any kind of resolutions or commitments without first doing this process.

On that note; all of us here at AEM wish all of you a Happy New Year ------- and happy journaling!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Prize Draw Winners!

Our December 20th Holiday Prize Draw has happened! We are giving away 5 copies of my book BEING WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE, and the winners are Lindsay T., Sabina Y., Cindy M., Alexis R., and Beth W. Congratulations to you all! (Each winner has been notified by email.)

A quote in the book is from Confucius: "To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right." The Christmas season is such a perfect time to reflect on this I find. It is the season for giving (although that season should really never end!), AND it is the time when we prepare for a new year, new beginnings, and setting intentions for improvements and new choices we wish to make. May all our choices help and support us in "setting our hearts right"!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Musings on the Holidays

The Holidays are coming up again – and what has not been said on this subject? I cannot think of anything! The discussion is, as usual, can we manage the stress and make the experience pleasurable? This year for many, there’s probably an additional focus on money - or rather the reduced amounts of it available! The quote "In bringing up children, spend on them half as much money and twice as much time." (L. J. Peter) may speak more to parents this year than before!

So the one thing I find myself focusing on is quality rather than quantity - and the concept of relishing; relishing every positive fraction of every tiny moment. As I bake the mince pies, I want to relish the aromas that waft towards me. Each time I walk past the tree in our living room, I want to relish the beauty of the twinkling lights and the sweet decorations collected over the years. Before, during and after each meal, I want to take the time to deeply appreciate every morsel consumed, knowing how privileged we are to be consuming such meals at all. Relishing to me is like the physical version of appreciating, felt so acutely it creates a physical response – the mouthwatering experience, the involuntary smile, the warm glow. And what more do I need – for these are the physical manifestations of happiness, and to decide to relish is to decide to be happy – at any time of year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Musings on The Being Effect

For me, The Being Effect is what one might call the impact we each make on our environment, our loved ones, each person we meet, and our own body. It is not just about what we say and do - but actually more about how we feel. Our feelings permeate everything, which is really good news, because this is something we can actually take charge of - and which in turn will make it easier to take charge of how we respond to the world! I for one, am grateful for this, especially when I am confronted with all the things in the world that I cannot control! Although recycling, using my bike instead of my car, and coaching by phone rather than driving to an office, all contribute however minutely to a better world, consciously putting myself in a 'feel-good' state and allowing it to effect everything I think, say and do will, I believe, make an even greater difference. And it will naturally include riding my bike - - for several reasons, not just because I want to be 'green' but because I really love to ride! Easier, somehow, than 'trying hard' to be environmentally conscious, as it is a natural result of 'the feel-good' flow........... :-)

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Sometimes we let ourselves get distracted, sometimes we need distraction(!), and sometimes we just can't help but be distracted. I love this poem; it describes how I'm feeling today! :-)

I meant to do my work today -
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand -
So what could I do but laugh and go?

by Richard le Gallienne

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The California Women's Conference

Twenty-four thousand women – and a handful of men – poured into the Long Beach Convention Center in California last week, filling the huge arena and newly constructed ‘village’ of booths and stages with excited, anticipatory chatter. Vivacious meetings between friends followed serious looking women with a mission in their stride. Laughter mingled with calls across the hallway, and guides & guards were inundated with questions that all began with ‘where’. Lines at the coffee stalls alternately lengthened and diminished, as the women in them looked hurriedly at their watches then around the room for some sign that might help them decide whether they should stay in line or go to their next destination. The Ladies rooms had more progressively expanding queues, until the women in them discovered that the Men’s room had a big “Women’ pasted over its “Men” sign! Frantic is a word that could be used to describe some of the activity in the hallways and escalators, as women jostled to get to the arena in time for the celebrity talk they wanted to hear. For many, the entire scene was a tad overwhelming!

I was fortunate to be positioned in the Sanctuary, where the publisher of my most recent book (Being What You Want To See) the Shinnyo-en Foundation, had created a comfortable and beautified area for me to do book-signings, and give short presentations about stress & emotions. Or at least, that was the plan. But as we all know, the best laid plans…… As it turned out, the noise level from thousands of voices coupled with life size screens broadcasting celebrity interviews, made it impossible to be heard by anyone other that those sitting right next to me. Ahh well – just as well really, for it resulted in one-on-one (and one-on-two) conversations about the specific stress that affected each of the countless women that pulled up a chair with me; without public scrutiny & within the privacy that loud noise and huge crowds curiously allow, individuals were able to learn how very powerfully their emotions impact their body, and (The Good News!) how quickly and effectively we can each recover from stress & turbulent emotions. With help from the feedback technology described in my book, and in 10-15 minutes each, close to a hundred women got to actually see, one by one, their own physiological stress response, how distressing emotions impact the body, and just how easy it is to self-correct. Not one woman was unable to learn to self-regulate, even in this very noisy and ‘un-focusing’ environment, and even when the women in question had come over to see me just to escape the overwhelming amount of stimulation! Every woman (and a couple of men!) left telling me they felt empowered, enlightened, amazed, uplifted or at the very least expressed gratitude for valuable new information about themselves,

The very next day after the conference, emails were in my Inbox saying things like; “I have incorporated your suggestions into my daily lifestyle and I have already begun reaping the benefits." "I am feeling more empowered, relaxed, calm and energetic.” & “Thank you, again...... for the private one-on-one customized training that you gave me. The results are already amazing!”

Is it any wonder I love my job!!!! I feel humbled, privileged, and delighted, all at the same time!

Monday, November 2, 2009

This Was Shared With Us

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

-unknown monk 1100 A.D

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Press packet for new book

If you would like a copy of this Press Packet for review or for promotional purposes, please go to Contact Us on our website.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Am Lovable and Capable!

Have you ever stood in front of a mirror and said to yourself “I am loveable and capable”? It can be a powerful exercise, and one which can unveil attitudes and beliefs you have about yourself that may not be serving you all that well!

A lot has been written in the last few decades about feeling loved and lovable. Less has been written about feeling capable…. However, the desire to feel capable is probably as strong in its own way as the desire to love and be loved; all a part of the need to belong and to matter that is such a significant part of the human experience. The desire to be capable never diminishes throughout life; picture a toddler proclaiming his ability to be self reliant; “I wanna do it! Le’ me do it!” is a cry we have all heard from a two-year old. Teenagers are of course notorious for wanting to demonstrate that they are capable, and if you visit a nursing home, you frequently witness residents saying to the staff, “Let me do it myself!”

I like to remember to recognize and honor this, whether I am at home, or working with business managers or parents: With managers I love the idea of ‘catching employees doing something right’: – Managers and leaders tend to be very good at correcting and finding what’s wrong – it’s very easy to do! However a more productive and beneficial approach is to catch yourself doing just that, and for each time you do; find and communicate something right that employees have done – twice!
With parents, this can work pretty much the same way – the object of children’s activities is, after all, developing self-reliance! The environments we create for our children need to give them the experience of being capable and able to fix a problem if they have one!
For me at home – well, suffice it to say I can always do with a bit more focus on what we all are capable of (rather than what we are not!)
In all cases I do believe the most important thing is to be sincere, to be authentic – for nothing is worse than a false compliment, or a “Good job!” said with an insincere smile and a false chirpiness!
And at the end of the day, that brings it all back to oneself: how sincere can I be in front of a mirror saying “I am lovable and capable”? It’s definitely something to work on!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Is Anybody There?

It all happened very fast – one minute he was walking along the edge of a cliff, minding his own business, the next he was half way down, suspended over the jagged rocks and crashing waves below, by his pants pocket hooked onto a branch.

He felt the fabric begin to weaken and give way….. A few more stitches snapped. The waves pounding the rocks beneath him seemed to be getting closer – and certain death awaited him!

“Help! Is anyone there?” he cried out in anguish. “Help! Please, help me someone!”

Then, as if on a breeze floating by, a voice replied; “Do not hang on – release the fabric from the branch and let go. Trust me. You will float gently down like a feather in the breeze, and you will land softly on a smooth rock. The waters will lap softly against your feet, soothing your every ache, loosening your every tension….’

“Is anyone else there?” he called.

(originally read in "Inside Stories" by Angela Wood & Robin Richardson © 1992)

I wonder how many of us have at sometime or another felt this way? – that we’ve been called on to have faith, but cannot or dare not comply with the ramifications of it; of what such faith actually demands of us……. Heavy maybe? But reflecting on this question feels appropriate these days ……..

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Few De-stressing Tips for These Times of Angst:

Limit time spent on a crisis
Stroke an animal & exhale while doing so
Talk to a friend
Say ‘no’ to a demand
Say ‘yes’ to a break
Congratulate yourself for your commitment to growth (You’re reading this, for instance!)
Enjoy nature
Give CHANGE a chance!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Story of "I"s

One day, Ted was waiting for his business partner George, who was perpetually late. When he finally arrived, Ted reminded him that he had made a promise to be on time today, as they had vital things to discuss in a now short time. Ted said he felt let down.
“Aw come on!” George responded. “Lighten up! I may not always be on time, but I’m never late!” he laughed at his own joke.
Ted was not amused. If he added up all the half-hours he’d waited for George it would probably amount to several days! But George was unperturbed. “Anyway, it’s not my fault. I set my alarm and was ready to go this morning when the rain just came chucking down! Man, did you see it?! My car was parked a ways up the road, and I would have got drenched, so I had to wait.”
“What happened to umbrellas?” Ted inquired.
“Oh, I couldn’t find one, and anyhow I don’t remember promising to be on time.. did I really?”
“Yes,” Ted said, “you did. But if you can’t be sincere with yourself, how can I expect you to be sincere with me?”
“The trouble with you is, you speak in riddles too much! What the heck has sincerity got to do with it anyways?!” George was losing patience. So was Ted, who just shot him a quiet look under raised eyebrows.
George continued; “It’s just that sometimes the “me” that wants to get up early is not the same “me” who just won’t cooperate and get out of bed! We all have several parts to us – you do too, don’t you? I mean, sometimes we have internal conflicts, like when it comes to keeping a secret for instance. One “I” makes a promise to keep a secret, then after maybe a few glasses of wine, a second “I” urges the person to just tell his wife and then forgets to tell her it’s a secret. I mean, that happens to everyone, right?”
“Are you referring to our discussion last week, when we agreed to keep that highly confidential information, ahem, ‘highly confidential’?”
“My wife and I had a few drinks and it had been on my mind and it was so incredible, I just had to tell her! Then, well, she told her brother and… “ he trailed off, but got quickly back on track. “But it was good man, because her brother had a few suggestions that I think we should seriously consider – it may make all the difference to our decision about the merger!” he became instantly excited. Ted was silent. George went on; “Anyway, it’s hardly my fault. You should have made it clearer.”
Somehow, this was the last straw for Ted. Enough was enough.
“George,” he began, “I could not have made it clearer. But listening to you reminds me of an ancient teaching that says If one of your “I”s offends you, pluck it out. If you cannot make yourself agree internally, you will continue to justify all your dysfunctional actions by blaming circumstances or other people. It is obvious that last week, my “I” met with another of your “I”s than the one I went into business with. All of this just tells me we must dissolve our partnership. I’m done.” And with that, he stood up and walked away.

Inspired by “Shooting the Monkey” by Colin Turner

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Appreciating The Small Stuff

A plate is placed on the small café table in front of me. On it, a perfect, golden brown, puffy croissant – straight out of the oven. As I gingerly hold it by its two hot claws and pull gently, it falls apart, pastry flakes scattering on and off the plate. The croissant center is revealed, hot and steamy, soft and yellow. I place a small piece on my tongue and can taste the butter through the flavor of sweet pastry. Yum! As I break off small pieces and eat them slowly, one by one, I leave the outer, crispy, flaky pieces for last. Savoring every bite of this mouthwatering pastry, I occasionally indulge further in sips of foamy cappuccino, enhancing the croissant’s sweetness even more. Eventually only those crispy flakes remain. I take a deep breath and smile in anticipation. Lifting one to my lips, I await the crunch and the taste of not quite burnt, sweet buttery pastry. There it is – ahhh. What bliss. Finally the last bite; I let it melt a little then chew gently and it’s gone. Washing it down with the rest of my cappuccino, I exhale in satisfaction and appreciation. Aren’t I one fortunate person to be indulging in such a treat, today!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Parents Worry More – About Technology!

As an add-on to my last Blog, I am compelled to respond to the several parents who have emailed me with their concerns about their children’s use of technology; specifically Facebook, texting, and Internet technology in general. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about before, now there is this added question for many: is all this technology damaging my child?

There are many research findings out there that give us multiple reasons why unlimited use of technology is not a good thing – especially for young developing brains – including some scary links to ADD, ADHD and other labels. But I’m not going to quote any of it here. (If you have an interest in the research, there’s so much out there you can just Google it!) In this Blog I think it may be more helpful to just go back to basics: what are your children’s needs? how can technology help/hinder you to get them met? And what is the right thing for you to do?
I’ll try to keep simple what I have learned while working with children and parents on this issue.

Children need opportunities to work out basic relationships, especially family relationships, so they can understand both themselves and relationship dynamics. Ask yourself: Is their use of technology facilitating this process? Used mindfully, both Facebook (and other such IT) and texting can be beneficial both socially and academically. However, if it replaces face to face human contact, it will not help the development of skills we as humans need to ‘read’ other people, and to express ourselves appropriately through out body-language and other ‘live’ visual, auditory, and tactile cues.

Children need to learn how to manage their own emotions and stress reactions live and in real-time, as they work out their relationships with others, developing their emotional intelligence, including empathic competencies, in the process. The impersonal, brief but delayed, and abbreviated nature of interactive communication such as texting and emailing have shown to impair this learning process considerably. I can vouch for this finding, having witnessed it not only in many, many children in schools, but also amongst countess professionals in corporations, where it causes costly conflict! (One Fortune 500 CEO was described to me recently as “an emotional train-wreck”).

So, before your child grows up into a fully dysfunctional and miserable corporate player :-), let’s look at what you can do – realistically, day-to-day:

Do you Multitask? Multitasking is a significant aspect of Internet technology, and its appeal. Check whether you multitask yourself before you tell your child not to. Do you drive and talk on your cell-phone at the same time? Do you text while you’re having a family meal out? Do you … hmm, get the picture? Gauge how you would like your child to be, against your own actions. “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t work anymore!

When it comes to your child’s school work, multitasking may not be detrimental in itself, - although for some children it undermines their capacity to focus – but it does tend to slow down the process of getting the work done, making it more likely for her to be studying well into the night and rushing her assignment when she’d tired and cranky and her brain is not functioning at it’s full capacity – and more importantly, she probably won’t be getting enough sleep.

You are the parent, not the buddy – dare to be unpopular. Every young person needs his guide more than anyone, and you are it! Take the time to observe where your child’s development is being helped or hindered by technology. Use your intuitive knowledge of each child – they all respond differently to technology, as to anything. Discuss with your co-parent or another adult who holds the same values you do. Make mindful choices about what your boundaries are or need to be. Plan to engage your child, to consider his views and be open to some leeway with him, but be sure you know and stay true to your own limits. Apply your emotional mastery skills to get centered and really ‘tune in’ to what you know, in your heart, is right.

When conversing with your child about setting boundaries or consequences (these or others), set up a time for conversation when both of you are in a good space. (For instance, giving advance notice, serving Pizza, and letting your child select some of her choice of music to play in the background, might set the stage better than yelling after her as she disappears up the staircase.) If you, for instance, are setting time limits for the use of Facebook, try to get their buy-in, but be clear that you are the parent. Eliminate your emotional need to be liked or approved of, (having managed your emotions before the conversation!)

This brings to mind a story I heard recently about a comment the Duke of Windsor made after spending time in the US. He said, (sarcastically I believe), “What I like about America is how well parents obey their children.” Oooops! Check that this doesn’t apply to you!

Of course the very best thing you can do is your own 3 R’s:
whether your emotions are serving you and your child, & if not, stop.
Release any tension, appropriately (‘take Time-out’ and scream into a pillow, write, run, etc.)
Relax into a ‘feel-good’ state – breathe slowly 3 times and focus on feeling appreciation.
THEN, come back to the issue. With your emotional energy managed, your brain will be clearer and you can behave and communicate more the way you really want to!

Internet & communication technology is here to stay – but rather than gritting your teeth and bearing it, the job of parents is to find ways to reconcile it with what we know for sure about our human needs, and being brave enough to do what is right, regardless of whether it’s popular in the moment. The less emotional energy you have around that, the easier it will be! That’s my experience, anyway!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Parents Worry!

Most people worry sometimes. ALL of us who are parents, worry - a lot! It is part and parcel of being a parent – to worry about our children. When they start a new school, we worry. When they begin going off to parties on their own, we worry. When they make choices we do not approve of or understand, we worry. When they grow up and move away to run their own lives we continue to worry, although it feels a little different, because we no longer have any control, not even an illusion of control! :-)

Worry is what I call a ‘what if?’ emotion. Like anxiety, fear, concern, eagerness, hope, and expectancy, it anticipates and attempts to predict the future. The imagination, prone to run rampant, joins in and, if unchecked, feeds the emotion as various scenarios are envisioned. The best thing to do when you catch yourself in the throes of this experience is to say to yourself “Time Out!” Check where in your body you are holding the tension that has been created – and release it! I for one, tend to hold worry in my jaw and neck, so a good old roll of the head and shoulders, and an opening and closing of my mouth helps to loosen things up! With the tension released I take three deep breaths, focusing all my attention in the area of my heart, feeling my torso expand and contract around the heart as I breathe. I suggest you try it – it feels exceedingly pleasant!

When you really feel fully present & centered in your body, breathing calmly, visualize your child perfectly safe, happy, and learning what (s)he is meant to learn. Know that your child has his or her own journey to make through life and trust that you have given them the necessary values and skills to navigate through it – and whatever that looks like, don’t judge it but rather know that it is perfect.

Quite frankly, much as we do it, worry does nothing to help with anything. Try instead to “send” your child all your love and just be there, living your own life as best you can, but always in a loving state for them. That is the best support you can possibly give your child – and guess what? I’m telling myself this now, as my (very) adult daughter travels across another continent. As a matter of fact, I find myself using this process on quite a regular basis!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Nothing to do with Relaxation!

Contrary to popular beliefs, mastering emotions does not mean activating a state of relaxation or calm. Quite the opposite, it means creating a state – an internal locus of control - which channels the energy of the emotion in question into a perspective that can relate to and interact with whatever external stressors or circumstances that caused the emotion or stress in the first place.

Just as those moments that we have all experienced spontaneously, when life and our interactions seem to flow easily and effortlessly, this internal locus of control gives us the ability to deliberately respond harmoniously and with greater ease, to take charge of our emotions rather than being the victim of them. When life presents us with circumstances over which we have no control and which we normally would resist, creating stress and conflict, we can now decide to take charge of our emotions and our responses, consciously changing whatever doesn’t serve us to create an energized state from which to respond in an ‘emotionally intelligent’ manner.

This was simply but effectively demonstrated by Helen, a newly qualified temporary counselor at an inner city school. Although truly gifted in her work with children, she was insecure and easily stressed in her dealings with colleagues and administration. She had taken several initiatives to develop her ideas into programs to help the children with their emotions, with great success. However, she had many more ideas that she was not implementing because of her insecurities and lack of confidence.

These insecurities were exacerbated by several teachers at the school who believed that emotional support did not belong in an educational setting. They would drop negative remarks to her about the children she was trying to help such as, “Children who behave like that should be expelled!”, “The children you are trying to help are past praying for!” or, “They should re-instate corporal punishment in schools! That’s all that will work with those kids!” Helen would quietly seethe at these remarks, laughing nervously and turning away to avoid confrontation. She would then lie awake at night fretting because she didn’t have the confidence to stand up for what she believed was right, and wondering if she was undermining her own work. No matter how often the school’s principal or others pointed out her successes, her insecurities would ‘take over’ and she was, as she put it, ‘unable to think straight’.

After a few training sessions learning about and applying emotional mastery (AEM), achieving ‘internal coherence’ – that is her brain and heart being coherent or in harmony – her confidence started to build. She practiced the skills diligently and within a month had gained the clarity of mind and internal locus of control to stand up for her convictions, either by speaking her truth or by ignoring her critics completely and not allowing thoughts about them to take up her time or energy.

There is nothing complex about the skills Helen developed; each day she would practice the slow, rhythmic breathing, and various versions of “the three R’s” (see the next Blog outlining the 3 R’s), generating the sensation in her chest that facilitated the internal coherence. By doing this, she was constantly increasing the coherence of the messages sent from her heart to her brain rather than allowing her thinking brain to be ‘switched off’ by ‘chaotic’ messages. More and more she became ‘emotionally intelligent’. Eventually she not only implemented many more of her ideas with the children, but used the AEM concepts she practiced herself to support the children – with great success; boys that she would previously have had to pull away from fights in the playground on a daily basis, now came to her voluntarily, walking away from a potential fight before it began, they would come to her room, sit down in a corner and slow down their breathing until they had gained some internal coherence, and hence the clarity of mind needed to manage their own behavior.

Nothing to do with relaxation at all really!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

~ emotionally and otherwise!

The word “emotion” is from Latin “emovere” which means ‘to be moved by’. Emotions are what move us to action. For example, the emotion of anger at injustice can move us to positive action of creating justice where none exists; the emotion of fear can move us to protect ourselves, often appropriately so, but equally often, inappropriately.

Emotions used in the way for which they were intended, generate creativity and innovation in each one of us, in every area of life. Emotions that are denied or not accepted drive us to behaviours that are unhealthy or dysfunctional. Conversely, emotions that are acknowledged and channeled appropriately bring about positive action, invoke problem-solving, and give birth to progress.

I ask myself every weekend; what progress have my emotions helped me make this week? How have I channeled my emotional energy? What choices have I made that led to positive action or experiences – in my life and the lives of those around me?
It’s a great exercise!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Today I received an email from a client who is traveling in France. As I daydream over lunch, I am remembering some of the times I have spent in that beautiful country, most recently with my daughter, visiting a dear friend in Aix en Provence in southern France. The Aix countryside is breathtaking, with its lush green valleys and mountains, lavender covered fields stretching out like lilac carpets for acres and acres, infusing the air with a sweet, heady scent. In another view, miles and miles of vineyards seem to go on past the horizon separated only by winding country roads that now and again make their way through a tiny village. Should you care to stop, the stone walls covered in climbing roses and a church tower chiming softly on the hour, invite you to meander through the narrow cobble-stoned lanes and to rest for the occasional café-au-lait or glass of wine at the village square café. There, seated at a tiny table with a red chequered tablecloth, adjusting your chair to fit between the uneven cobbled stones, you may feel the peace of this countryside envelop you and infuse you as has the lavender scent.

This is one of the places my imagination takes me when I need a mental sanctuary. I am refreshed for the rest of the day, inspired to move into whatever task the day demands. Ahhhhh, the imagination makes it so easy to feel content, to re-connect with a feeling of peace …… we just need to remember to do it !

Monday, August 17, 2009

Expressing Anger - When You're 6!

I believe that all emotions have a purpose, and that validating every emotion (i.e. acknowledging that it is there) is paramount to knowing the purpose of that emotion (i.e. what is it telling me?) and being able to manage it, if necessary.

There are many ways to facilitate this acknowledgement of emotions with people, and with children I prefer to make it fun, if possible! One day, I was doing an exercise with a group of girls aged 6 to 9, focusing on accepting emotions of anger (in themselves): the exercise was to express feelings of anger – or other similar feelings that they would like to express – by writing them down. They were promised that no-one would look at their pieces of paper, (which were ultimately to be destroyed).

As all the girls were busy – heads down – writing to their hearts content, the youngest, and only 6-year old, approached me. Quietly she whispered “How do you spell the F word?”
I was a little taken aback, but collected myself quickly and responded in a whisper, “It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to spell it right.”
“But I want to!” she whispered, clearly irritated.
I smiled, hoping she would go back to her writing. Alas, she was adamant.
“How do you spell the F word?” she repeated, whispering a little louder this time.
“I’m afraid I am not allowed to tell you that.” I ventured a little sheepishly, stumped as to what to tell her that she would accept. “and anyway, as I said, it doesn’t matter.””I want to know!” she vehemently whispered loudly. “How do you spell the F word?!”
“Maybe you can use another word?” I ventured hopefully
“NO!” she whispered loudly now, causing one of the other girls to look up briefly.
“I want to know how to spell it!” she whispered again, her voice rasping.
I shrugged. “I’m sorry sweetie, I can’t tell you.” I laid a sympathetic hand on hers, which she shook off impatiently, turning on her heels and with an emphatic exclamation of “Right!” she stomped back to her paper and pencil.
Astonished I watched as she deliberately lifted up her tiny freckled fist with her middle finger pointing straight up in the air. Holding her hand firmly in this position, she turned it around and placed it decidedly down on the paper. With her pencil in the other hand, she proceeded to trace around the fist with the extended middle finger. When she had finished she looked up at me with a satisfied nod.
Then, blow me down, she did it again! And again, and again, and again! Until her entire page was filled with this image.
Suffice it to say, the exercise worked beautifully for her. She completed our session with a huge satisfied grin, announcing to her mother that she had left her ‘angeriness behind’. And indeed her mother reported more than a year later that her daughter no longer threw the huge anger tantrums she used to before, and had taken to writing, not only when she was upset (which was great news) but otherwise too, composing stories that eventually would win her awards at school.

I have simplified this story somewhat, but the essence of it is illustrative; when we are able to acknowledge our emotions no matter how bad they may seem, and express them appropriately, we can move on to the issue of releasing and /or transforming them so they better serve us!

Monday, August 10, 2009

‘Being Right’

I shared a Chinese story recently with some of you and received several requests to share it again! I think the story really resonated - because it’s about ‘being right’, and we have all, at some point, become caught up in the belief that we are right - defending our point, ourselves, our ego, often to the detriment of what we are actually trying to achieve!

In a small temple in the mountains, four student monks were practicing Zazen. They agreed amongst themselves to observe seven days of silence. The first day of meditation began auspiciously, but as night began to fall one of the monks started feeling irritated that the lamps were not being lit.
"It was your turn to light the lamps," he complained to one of his fellow students.
The second monk was surprised to hear the first one talk. "In my concentration to maintain silence, I forgot," he explained
"Listen to you two," said the third student, "Why did you talk?"
I am the only one now who has not talked," concluded the fourth.

With thanks to Colin Turner, author of “Shooting The Monkey – Secrets of The New Business Spirit” (Hodder & Stoughton 1999). I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants business success!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Wise Bird

A Wise Bird

A wise old owl sat in an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?

Friday, July 17, 2009


Continuing on the subject of creativity and emotions, imagination cannot develop unless we allow it to flow…. Much like a snowball that has to roll down a hill of snow to accumulate more snow and become a significantly sized snowball! Allowing imagination to flow means that emotions will accompany the images we have. Allowing oneself to move through them, validate them, and process them (rather that interrupting them when they feel uncomfortable), gives us the opportunity to discover that we have a choice about how we feel. This in turn allows us to emerge at the other end with deeper, wider, perspectives, insights and creativity …………………… at least that is my experience!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Paps!

Today is my father’s birthday. I am very fortunate to have a father who is both youthful in spirit and positive in outlook. (At 82, he tap dances, plays tennis and still works as a consulting physician). His positive and optimistic view of life has, I suspect, not always been easy – life has given him some major hurdles to overcome – but he has consistently chosen to view life from a positive perspective, and when he can’t, to at least move his attention (and everyone else’s, if he’s given half a chance!) to finding the positive or the comical! In wishing him a Happy Birthday, I am reminded how his ‘emotional mastery’ has given me a strong reference for what it looks like, inspiring me to never give up endeavoring to grow - to ‘transcend and go beyond’.

I encourage any and everybody to look for, in their lives, someone who can exemplify emotional mastery to them, who, even though we cannot (and don’t even want to) be exactly like them, can serve as an inspiration and help us hold an image of what it means to be positive; what it looks like to draw on and manage our emotions so we make the most of life; and to help us remember that, as the song says “the best of times is now!”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Word

A 4-year old said "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."

Makes me think of one of The 4 Agreements (by Don Miguel Ruiz): “Be impeccable with your word”.

Much food for thought - ‘nough said!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Walking the Talk

Walking the Talk

Walking the Talk has been a much-used phrase in recent years, and probably is more applicable than ever now! When we – or those we look up to – do not ‘walk the talk’, incongruence and inconsistencies become rampant very quickly, which makes for a lot of insecurities to say the least!

Unfortunately, we cannot control others and whether they live up to our expectations. But we can be in charge of ourselves, and the way we “walk our talk”.

To have such ‘management’, we must of course become aware of what our ‘talk’ is; our beliefs about how to live life, our values and expectations, the behaviors and actions we expect of others and ourselves. Interestingly, many are unclear about this, not having fully addressed these thoughts and beliefs within the self –only being adversely triggered whenever they are unmet in the outside world!!

Nonetheless, it is surely essential to be completely conscious of exactly what we want to see before we can manifest it. Although this may seem obvious, I personally find it very valuable to keep the door open on the issue of ‘talk’ and whether we are really ‘walking’ it; never taking that for granted; always questioning and checking ourselves; exploring and self-regulating any stress or emotions that get in the way or are destructive; always growing our self-awareness, and, in the words of Walt Whitman, rising to go beyond.

Then, and only then can we become objective enough to address whether we are, or even can be capable of, ‘walking the walk”!!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Timeless Issue

I came across the quote below in an old book. I have found it to push the boundaries of some of our perceptions today and even activate some uncomfortable emotions, but the teaching is relevant and timeless – and it is one we can choose to use as a catalyst for growth; an inspiration; a validation of intentions; or merely to examine our emotional response and decide whether it serves us …. or not.

A certain stage of the human consciousness can be observed when, to the question as to what is needed, the following answer is given: ‘Money’. So long as this mercenary limitation is not outlived, no spiritual help can be provided. One’s consciousness must be advanced towards more significant values, then help will come even materially. The law of the highest values is affirmed in the whole of existence. Thus, our own consciousness determines the well-being that is deserved.
From HEART – Signs of Agni Yoga © 1932

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Emotions and Creativity

I am drawn to award shows on TV, most particularly Broadway’s Tony Awards because this particular event honors live theatre – and live theatre was central to my life for more than thirty years. No doubt those of you who share my interest, watched this year’s Tony Awards on TV last Sunday. As usual in awards shows, there was much emotion – mainly excitement, pride, gratitude, some overwhelm, and lots of delight. I am sure there were also disappointments, sadness and anger too, but we didn’t get to see much of that…….

Emotions run rampant in the theatre world, as in all environments where creativity abounds. It is almost a given with theatre people; writers; actors; singers; dancers; musicians; composers; choreographers; artists; directors; all are expected to be ‘emotional’, that is to have and to show lots of emotions freely, unabashedly. This can be a good thing, it can be entertaining, and it can even be inspiring. But all too often it can be destructive. Few, if any, demands are placed on creative or performing artists to manage their emotions, with the resulting emotional chaos we are so often witness to in the world of celebrity.

I like to challenge the assumption that one needs to be emotionally unmanaged to be creative. This assumption is, I believe, a myth! On the contrary; the ability to understand emotions and emotional information, to appreciate how emotions merge, mingle and move through relationship transitions, to grasp emotional meanings and to be able to identify, assess, process and modulate them within, is surely central to some of our greatest and inspired works of art!

I'll be musing more on this subject!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Poem for a Smile

When I worked as a school counselor, I liked to share poems and stories with the children, that would express feelings they might be experiencing but having difficulty expressing. One poem was particularly popular and came to mind again when a former (now grown up) client asked about it! We agreed that it very aptly expresses something we can all identify with!
Betsy At The Party

‘When I was at the party,’
Said Betsy aged just four,
‘A little girl fell off her chair
Right down upon the floor;
And all the other little girls
Began to laugh, but me -
I didn’t laugh a single bit,’
Said Betsy seriously.

‘Why not?’ her mother asked her,
Full of delight to find
That Betsy - bless her little heart! -
Had been so sweetly kind.
‘Why didn’t you laugh, my darling?
Or don’t you like to tell?’
‘I didn’t laugh,’ said Betsy,
‘ ‘Cause it was me that fell!’


Friday, April 17, 2009

Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative

Friday, April 17, 2009

Path to Peace
Recently added photos and information to the Shinnyo-en Foundation website as a part of the Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative, Jennifer Day, author of “Being What You Want To See”, and Maura Wolf, Shinnyo-en trainer, co-led a workshop entitled “Being What you Want, Teaching Who You are – A School Reform Strategy”. This standing room only workshop was a part of the 20th Annual National Service-Learning Conference held in Nashville, Tennessee... Check out the shinnyo-en website at

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pulling in the Same Direction.

It could be said that we all have multiple personalities – certainly most of us have several ‘I’ s that frequently disagree. Let me explain.

I have an intention to meet my daughter for coffee at noon, that is I, Jennifer, has that intention. However, I, Jenny, get busy with emails and loose track of time (a voice in the back of my head says “just one more – you’ve got time!”). Then there’s I, Jen, who feels taking a break to go to the café is something I only deserve to do when I’ve finished certain tasks I had set myself the day before………………

Long story short, I arrive at the café at about ten past noon. ‘No big deal’ you might say. But I, Jennifer, believe in punctuality as a show of respect for the other person, and although I, (Jenny), tell myself to lighten up and I (Jen) justify internally, being late by arguing work is a priority for how else can one pay for the coffee, - I am annoyed with myself – I do not feel good internally, because I am not in agreement within myself; I am not concurring; I am incongruent.

This incongruence takes a lot of energy and attention, energy and attention that is taken away from relationships, work, and life in general. In fact, this incongruence can be so distracting it can even become destructive.

If we are to improve ourselves and our world, we need to give all our attention, intentionally, deliberately, to becoming congruent within ourselves. Only when all our ‘I’s or internal voices agree with each other and have the same intention, can we fully achieve our goals, because only then are we fully focused – a little like all the horses pulling a wagon galloping in the same direction! Only when we become internally congruent, can we create the behaviour - and life – and world that we really want and feel good about. Mastering our emotions is foundational in this process.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Story

“Dear God,” he prayed, “let me win the lottery this week. Times are bad. We are all starving and the children need new shoes. Please help. Amen.”

“Dear God,” he prayed again, “we didn’t win the lottery, as you know. I can’t believe that you’d let me down. Things have got a lot worse. We haven’t eaten now for days, the baby is really ill and we’ll lose the house if I don’t get some money soon. Please help. Amen.”

“Dear God,” he prayed once more, “I don’t understand at all. Two weeks have passed since I first prayed to you, and still we haven’t won. We are faint with hunger and exhausted from worry. The bailiffs will be here tomorrow if I can’t pay the rent and then what will become of us? I’m begging you now – I’ll never ask for anything again! Please help, amen.”

“Meet me half way,” came the reply. “Buy a ticket.”

(A Traditional Jewish story)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brain Freeze ?

Stress is, as most of us know, an emotional state that is the result of how we perceive a situation in our minds. Stress is not – as many would have us believe – a result of the situation itself.

Stress is the result of our perception and is the body’s reaction to fears, assumptions and more often than not, projections about our future – ‘what if?’s that we conjure up in our minds. The more vivid these images are, the greater the stress will be.

The greater the stress, the more insecure we become about our ability to handle it and the less we believe in our own coping abilities. The result is that the brain shuts down and stress hormones circulate throughout the body.

The more inhibited our brain is, the less we can think clearly and the more likely we are to perceive a situation or the actions of another as stressful. It becomes a never-ending cycle!

To combat this - aside from taking deep breaths -, it may help to remember that we do not have a crystal ball and actually cannot predict the future – much as we would like to! Although it is possible that some not-so-nice things may happen, it is equally possible that great things can happen too. We really don’t know…. And it’s actually okay to not know, because, ironically, the fact that we do not know is one thing we do know for sure Now breathe………..

Serendipity is one of my favourite concepts to focus on, and a focus on serendipity – the possibility of something wonderful happening – will make it much more likely to happen!

When next you feel stress and worry about the future overtaking you, STOP, take 3 slow deep breaths, and imagine your mind opening up to 360 degrees of possibilities. Imagine the most outrageous positive possibility, and allow yourself to enjoy the image for just a moment!

This will switch your brain on, and make you more likely to come up with creative ideas towards a positive potential!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Poem


A poem that inspires the contemplation of values …….

I would be true, for there are those who trust me,

I would be pure, for there are those who care,

I would be strong, for there is much to suffer,

I would be brave, for there is much to dare,

I would be a friend of all, the foe, the friendless,

I would be forgiving and forget the gift,

I would be humble, for I know my weakness,

I would look up, and laugh, and love, and live!


Friday, February 27, 2009


As a follow-up to my last entry, I’d like to recommend a few books that can be great resources for understanding and developing the skills we need to manage emotions and stress:

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

The Art of Changing the Brain by James Zull

Being What You Want to See by Jennifer Day

The Hidden Power of the heart by Sarah Paddison

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Power of now by Eckhart Tolle

And especially for Parents:

Creative Visualization with Children by Jennifer Day

Living Joyfully with Children by Win & Bill Sweet

How to Raise a Child with High EQ by Lawrence E. Shapiro

Teaching Children To Love by Doc Lew Childre

Also check out: at : is the most complete guide to information about Self -Improvement, Personal Growth and Self Help on the Internet. It is designed to be an organized directory, with articles and references to thousands of other Web Sites on the World Wide Web

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Emotionally Intelligent?

Emotionally Intelligent? President Obama presents as an emotionally intelligent man: he appears self-aware, with an ability for emotional self-management and impulse control, seemingly at ease with ambiguity, empathic with a natural gift for communicating, persuading and inspiring others, and obtaining support for decisions. Some individuals are inherently emotionally intelligent and, unlike the rest of us who need to make concerted efforts to develop our EI, always seem to be calm, unruffled and in control.

Whenever we view someone innately emotional intelligent, we come to expect certain qualities, for example we would expect that such individuals would also be insightful about those who are not so emotionally intelligent; like most of the rest of us! However, in most cases that has not been my experience. Much like a naturally talented dancer or athlete who finds it difficult to understand what it’s like to be stiff and ungainly, so the emotionally intelligent person may find it difficult to grasp that empathy and “meeting threats with greater understanding*” is not something most of us can do just because we’ve been told to. This is not because we are incapable, but because it’s not inherent within us and we haven’t been taught how to.

We know we need to collaborate more, but the necessary ‘know-how’ is not automatic. We know we need to “brave the currents……. Endure the storms,,,,,,,, and not falter” * Trouble is, we have not been taught the required skills to carry this out. HOW do we meet threats with greater cooperation? If we knew how to, wouldn’t we already be doing it? This thought takes me right to the work I do with businesses and families: very few people consciously mis-manage stress; consciously allow their emotions to control their actions; in fact I believe that if we all knew HOW TO manage stress and emotions, (and I say manage on purpose, as opposed to control), I think we’d be doing a better job of it!

So next time someone tells you to ‘suck it up’ or ‘pull yourself together’, “pull your socks up”, or “you need to communicate better”, and you know you really want to but just can’t seem to, explore whether you really have the skills to, and if not, look for ways you can begin to acquire those skills.

Excerpted from US President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Press Kit

Here is a picture of the official glossy press kit for the Being What You Want to See book now available from us here at AEM. If you are interested in hosting, promoting or writing about the new book and would like a kit, please e-mail Carmen at It includes a new feature I quite like, which is an audio disk with excerpts and guided exercises from the book.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Riding the Wave

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I frequently refer to surfing as a metaphor for managing change, even though I am not a surfer. My husband however, surfs and each time he explains one of the principles of riding the waves, I am struck by the parallels to life itself! Yesterday he explained ‘pearling’, which occurs when you don’t reposition yourself to compensate for transitioning from the downhill slope of the wave to flat water. As a result, the surfboard digs vertically down into the bottom of the ocean, and you get pitched into the water! As you come up for air, you may find yourself floundering, anxiously trying to get back up on the board and, if you manage to, paddling furiously in order to catch the next wave that you know is due imminently! This is often called “The Impact Zone”, a ‘zone’ where time is of the essence! If fear and anxiety are allowed to take over, your much-needed focus will be gone with the waves and your next experience will likely be a wipe-out!

As we move through the second month of 2009, more and more people are finding themselves in that ‘Impact Zone’, experiencing the effects of our global economic crisis, firsthand. And for those of us lucky enough not to, we see neighbors, family, friends or colleagues who are. Potentially, we can all quite easily move into a state of anxiety!

Two questions emerge for me:

1.Have we / are we flexible enough to reposition ourselves to compensate for the transition we are going through? In other words, are we willing to be adaptable, try something new, stretch our thinking till it surfaces out of the box we have hitherto made ourselves so comfortable in? Can we transcend old behaviors and ride the waves of change with flexibility, or are we sticking with long-established, customary measures that will inevitably pitch us back into the water?

2.Are we anxiously and furiously flailing about, grasping at sea-foam, our fear of the possibilities ahead paralyzing us and keeping us just treading water until the next wave wipes us out?

I only pose these questions in the hope that they will cause reflection. One thing I do know for sure is that managing our emotions is paramount if we are going to be successful at ‘riding these waves’. Although it is natural to feel anxiety and even fear, our chances of successfully navigating this time will be in direct proportion to our ability to process and move through these feelings, keeping our ‘emotional brain’ calm and managed, and our ‘thinking brain’ switched on: The two ‘brains’ can never be active simultaneously! When we are in fear, our ‘emotional’ brain takes over and puts us into defense mode, causing panic, inflexibility, and resistance to change. Short-term thinking and bad decisions are made in this state. Conversely, smart, innovative thinking that will create the new ways of doing things that we so sorely need, comes from a switched on ‘thinking brain’, which can only happen when we are in an emotional state of centeredness; focused yet flexible, willing to reposition, and open to transcendence. ‘Riding the waves’ in this state will minimalize the chances of ‘pearling’ or ‘wiping out’, in fact we may eventually find the ride quite exhilarating!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Even in the simple organizing of stones, certain principles apply when creating a balanced, sustainable and unshakeable foundation.

The same principles apply to human progress and the underlying emotions that form the foundation for all our behaviour, thinking and inter-relations.

I am experiencing this every day and hope to share my thoughts and ideas with you as I write here, sharing tid bits on the blog of AEM.