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Relaxed Productivity: The Secret You Need to Know

It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m deeply into my day. Swirling through my head are the tasks I’ve promised myself to accomplish today. Yet I’m feeling stress free.

That’s right, you got it – free from stress.

My list isn’t shorter than yours or easier. It contains the usual suspects – business and personal items, some urgent, some dictated by others, some my own, some wishful, some in-between, and some that won’t ever get done.

So why aren’t I stressed by a list yay long?

I have a system for prioritizing that lets me relax, knowing that the critical items – those that align with my values, will not only be completed, but will be celebrated. This system not only makes me more productive, easier in my boots (okay, shoes) but also gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “getting it done” – a meaning I emphatically endorse.

So what is that?

“Getting it done” means completing the right tasks, the ones that move you forward towards your goals or further into your values, not just ticking off items on an endless “to do” list. And when these get done, there’s a feeling of completion which includes celebration.

Celebration isn’t a word often associated with productivity, but think about it. How does one respond to a sense of completion? And, what builds the momentum to keep on, keepin’ on the next day, and the next and the one after that?

What really happens when you complete an important or urgent task? (Yes there is a distinction, read on.) There is a physiological shift. Your breathing alters so your nervous system settles. If you put your attention there, you feel that “juicy goodness” and expand a bit.

Your self-worth ratchets up a little too – and that further impacts your body. Taking all that together, even in the 60 seconds you allow, is a celebration…and if you do nothing else, you are building momentum for whatever is next.

What gets in the way, you may be asking? Ahhh…. great question!

What most often gets in the way of productivity is confusion and overwhelm. There IS much to do, and in many arenas. How do you decide? Especially when you feel that setting aside time to plan puts you even further behind.

Many intelligent, resourceful folks just wade in… and then almost drown from lack of planning. They tell me they just “aren’t productive enough” but the truth is, they aren’t productive in a useful, systematic way.

That doesn’t have to be you. So what can help you become both productive and relaxed?

You can learn to use my 5 Minute Planning Tool and build your productivity muscles. Much like strength training, becoming more productive in a useful, meaningful way requires practice – regular practice. But you don’t have to get to a gym and you won’t have fees to pay, yet your results will be worth every moment invested.

This method didn’t originate with me. Yet, I’ve tailored it to my life, my needs and used it with hundreds of clients – all to great success. Now you can too. I call it The 5 Minute Planning Tool and if you haven’t seen it already, you can find it here, on the top right side of the page.

With this planning tool, you first determine what is truly important to you. This seems simple but when was the last time you prioritized? Then you look at external deadlines that MUST be met.

Once you have the scope of importance and urgency clear, you funnel your daily tasks through those filters. Next you align them on your calendar. And voila – no more confusion and no more overwhelm.

You know what most needs doing TODAY, relax into getting tasks moving you forward towards your goals, meet deadlines and eliminate mental and physical clutter. Plus, you celebrate – completion and this purposeful sense of yourself as a mover and shaker in your world.

Sound good? It IS and its easy with a little practice. Making the 5 Minute Planning Tool part of every morning, sets you up for relaxed productivity. Once you’ve practiced for a few weeks, its becomes second nature. Its good for you and everyone you know.

So now, at 9:10, and I am ready to move on to the next important task on my list, feeling grateful. Why? Because I finished an item that aligns with my intention of providing value to you.

4 Steps to Zest

6912056_sSylvie, looked down at her coffee cup and told me, defeatedly, “I feel like I’m asleep. I’ve been asleep for years.” Sylvie, a new client, was exploring her sense of being stuck at her job and what to do about it. But her real pain arose because she felt that her lethargy at work was creating difficulties at home, as well as with her sense of worth.

She continued, ‘My performance reviews are good, and I go along with creating the requisite goals on paper with the head of HR, but they are illusory…because they aren’t really challenges. I know I’ll achieve them before the signature hits the page. Its all a ‘been there, done, that’ sort of feeling.”

Things were going well for Sylvie. She had maintained a mid-level management position in a mid-sized company for years. She was well liked and enjoyed her peers. She knew the ropes and did her work efficiently and well, was decently paid and had the usual perks…so what was wrong? Why seek coaching?

When leaders, managers and supervisors “fall asleep” in their careers, they’ve lost a lot more than passion. Being on automatic pilot may sound like a good idea, but when we explore it more fully, we actually find its awful!

Not only does that state describe an ongoing feeling of zero passion, it also points to a total lack of imagination, learning and growth. Yikes – those are serious losses for any intelligent, resourceful leader.

And to have years or even decades pass in that state of “comfort” impacts you not only at work, but at home, too!

Your aliveness which has dissolved into boredom, complacency and mindless “doing” at work can’t inspire or engage the loved ones with whom you’re sharing – at the dinner table, over coffee, or in bed.

And when you confront yourself in the mirror, you’re not happily smiling but rather almost ignoring the face reflected back to you.

Call it “settling” or a “stalemate” or simply “dancing the same old dance” that repeating pattern is stealing an important chunk of who you really are.

Putting the zest back into your career (and your life as a result) doesn’t require drastic measures. It does take a commitment – to your own development, your own richness…and you can do it in four simple steps.

Step One: Reflect backwards and find scenarios when a project, an initiative was fully engaging. (These can be career related or not.)

Step Two: Jot down who was involved; the challenges, the environment; your strategies for success; the rewards for completing the project.

Step Three: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Experience the emotions, sensations that arise as you reflect on the engagement. Notice where the aliveness in you showed up (your belly, your chest, your hands or…) Stay with the sensations until you have a physical locale.

Step Four: Write down the answers to: What Was I Learning? What’s something I’d like to learn now? How can I go about that? Who could support me?

Once you’ve got these answers and have nailed down some of the sensations, you have a roadmap and a barometer.

What this means to you is that you can begin to incorporate places in your life where the answers to step two live. If they aren’t available, build them in – either at work or after. That’s the map part.

Then, as you experiment ( its going to be trial and error for a while) use the sensations you surfaced in step three to as the barometer. Are you getting closer to feeling that zest? If so, do more. If not, it times to try something else.

HINT: Sometimes you can mistake zest for fear! You might mislabel your sense of aliveness as fear because its become unfamiliar during “the long sleep”. When you notice the emotion that you are calling fear, check it out thoroughly. What are you really afraid of? Is it manageable? Or are you actually feeling the challenge, the potential learning, the engagement with the unknown and calling it by the wrong name?

Sometimes, this is a journey best taken with a coach. The support and accountability and motivation that a coaching program creates, may be the impetus for moving you out of the “yawns” and into the “aha” sector of you life.

 Yes, there are ways to integrate challenge, learning and growth into your life RIGHT NOW!

By identifying something of value you’d like to achieve, know, explore, you can round up support (colleagues, direct reports, bosses) and collaboratively come up with ways to incorporate it into your work life.

Failing that, you can look for another outlet – a new skill, take a challenging class, become proficient at a new sport, join a group, or get a coach to move you off your spot. The learning and inspiration will cross pollinate your work life and your personal life. Good books entertain; great books tip your world ever so slightly. Don’t be surprised if reading I AM THE MESSENGER shifts your perspective on your own life. The story is so good that it breaks your heart. You’ll have new people to interact with, something fresh to report on, a new level of challenge to reflect upon and a launchpad for a wider perspective.

And you’ll wake up! Blast through that deadening feeling of being asleep at the wheel of your life, which makes you dull and ultimately makes you rigid. The initial blast may be a tiny on the Richter scale, but the rumbles will attract more movement – after shocks that will lead to more passion, more aliveness, more growth.

Sure you can start small. And perhaps you’ll gain momentum for bigger changes. For sure, you’ll add some zest to your day to day that will serve you well in every area of your life.

So go for it. Today! Now! What are you waiting for?

Is the Emperor Naked?

questionsWho is the emperor? Whose clothes are missing? Who is pointing at the nudity? Yes, these queries come from the famous story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, yet they are questions from my own experience this morning. Let me explain.

I live in the Bay Area and many of my clients, friends, and colleagues do regular spiritual practice. Even calling it that makes me slightly uncomfortable as it feels like simple living practice to me…nothing that requires a wink (or raised eyebrow) to the “woo woo” Bay Area.

This morning, I attended a session led by Gangaji, a spiritual teacher here to teach a 3 day workshop. Organized by CIIS, the California Institute of Integral Studies, it was sparsely attended so I was able to sit up close and personal. I like that. It enables me to see facial expressions and really hear every word spoken and many unspoken as well.

My reason for being there was mostly curiosity. My close friend, Sarah, made the ticket she had purchased for herself available to me when she couldn’t go. It was a precious gift, especially as Sarah had described powerful experiences with this particular teacher. Even this morning, she had said, “You’ll feel the transmission when you enter the room.”

I’m writing this because I didn’t “feel the transmission”. Instead, I experienced an onslaught of questions. And dear reader, if you’re expecting erudite answers, don’t. Instead, this is my opportunity for surfacing the flood of questions that arose in me in the Starr Room of the First Universalist Church this morning.

You can read about Gangaji on her website. Her story is commonplace enough – a sensitive soul seeking through many channels for enlightenment – as a wife, parent, activist, acupuncturist; ending up in the Bay Area before the pilgrimage to India and the meeting with her guru where everything changed. An interesting note is that she includes the correspondence between her teacher, affectionately called Poonjabi and herself, on her website, as well as lovely photos of her teacher’s teacher. The photos of Swami touched me deeply…as little else did. Something in his deep set, dark eyes seemed alive with whispered wisdom and profound compassion.

When we go to hear a spiritual teacher, what are we bringing with us? And who is actually going? Does what we bring get in the way of our experience or does it create our experience? Can the teacher sweep it aside and lift the curtain on our confusion? What are we projecting onto the teacher we’ve come to learn from?

Projection for the uninitiated is a psychoanalytical theory – projection is the process whereby one person believes they see attributes (both good and bad) in another. The theory views this tendency as a defense mechanism whereby unenviable or unpleasant traits, impulses or ideas are attributed to another person. In this way, the person doing the projecting is able to avoid the unpleasantness in themselves.

My own experience has been that the very rare individual has swept the cobwebs from my eyes – momentarily – or for a day, but most wonderful teachers have not!

And what does someone really mean when they say they received a transmission from another human being?

I’m not sure of that, though I’ve used that language myself. What I have meant by it, is that some deeply understood wisdom the other has arrived at, or similar knowledge has passed into me without the benefit of language pointing it out. It is as though, by direct experience, somatically, my body and heart and mind simultaneously say, “Amen” to an unspoken message. The message is usually ontological, meaning that it is about “Being” rather than the more mundane facts of ordinary, daily living.

Remember that “amen” was the unlettered form of agreement when a more learned person read to the group or crowd. I use it here in that context – me being “the unlettered” and the teacher sharing the message non-verbally.

How can two people, sitting side by side, sensitive souls each, doing their spiritual “work” – trying to understand Reality, so to speak have such varying experiences that one feels she received a transmission while the other feels just a pleasant accord with the “emperor” – the person at the front of the room?

To me, it speaks of a great mystery. My friend Rob, mentioned lineage in our conversation on this subject. The idea of lineage speaks to me with power. In my recent readings about epigenetics (research in epigenetics has shown that environmental factors affect characteristics of organisms. These changes are sometimes passed on to the offspring. Does this in any way oppose Darwin’s theory of evolution? Not according to researchers) though the specific word never came up, it kept repeating itself in my mind.

Rob’s remark made me posit that different people hearing a teacher respond from their lineages…either in sync with the speaker – setting up a resonance, or not. Understand that I think of this as one flavor of the recipe of “transmission” – not exclusive but an important ingredient. Perhaps our projections, our openness, our inherent preferences are other ingredients.

Then there is what the teacher is bringing. Also a recipe despite claims of simplicity.

I suppose when these two recipes merge in the melting pot of our experience, through the addition of a mystical quality, an alchemical process may or may not occur. And that, to the best of my understanding brings about the transmission or lack of one.

And while receiving a transmission, for me, has left such a powerful impression that it reverberates through Time, hearing wise words without it is also a great thing – a reminder of how to be in the world, where to point attention, what is possible with awareness.

So what I experienced in the Starr Room was an attractive woman, clad all in white, with a slight Texas drawl, teaching about the power of staying Present without letting the mind lead one astray with its many ideas. Furthermore, she taught about the impact and import of “repeating questions” a technique I’m steeped in, to conquer the subconscious.

In a repeating question, a method taught by many teachers including Ramana Maharshi, the respondent answers the same questions again and again for a pre-determined period of time, surfacing the layers of consciousness and unconsciousness beneath the original answers.

 This method and everything else Gangaji was sharing was all good stuff. But did I have a transcendental experience? No…and that’s what opened the floodgates of questions…why not?

And now, hours later, having talked about it, thought about it and written about it, I can breathe into it with a sigh of pleasure…despite my not knowing the answers.

When I think of my clients, I am reminded of their different leadership styles. I am aware that some who lead are able to inspire their followers with great ideas, strategies and plans. Others, through the force of their personalities, create teams that cohere and put out extraordinary effort. Yet others, in their deep listening and general emotional intelligence, create loyalty and cohesion and a safe environment for experimentation among their teams. Still others are decisive in crisis mode and align their peeps with their clarity and conviction. If we respond strongly to different leadership styles, why not to different teachers?

So while my experience of Gangaji was less than my friend wished for me, to my mind, less than her own, it was a worthwhile endeavor to hear her teach. And the evidence? All these important questions and considerations that I will continue to ponder, are one fine outcome.

Sexy or Not: A Case for Practice

hand keyI jokingly call, my close friend, S. a surrogate daughter. She’s pregnant and single, for the moment and about to give birth – perhaps even tomorrow.. I attended her birthing classes where I learned a lot about how delivery and labor are handled these days. My own sons were born a long time ago, when a very different attitude prevailed.

Last weekend, things got very dicey. S. went into hospital with very high blood pressure, severely swollen feet (and face) arousing serious fears about preeclampsia. Without going into all the scary and upsetting details, I want to share one thing that stood out in relief, from the ordeal.

When S’s. QiGong friends showed up, and she, despite her pain, began to practice, the large hospital room filled up – with laughter, with joy, with a steadying calm essence. I breathed it in – taking long, deep inhales and I thought about what was transpiring before my eyes…

We practice – whatever our practices are – and we struggle with questions like “Why can’t I be more consistent?” or “How is it I let myself slip out of my routine?” or more frequently perhaps and certainly more poignantly, “When will the effects of practice show up?”

Sure, practice is challenging. It’s not sexy. Often repetitive, sometimes boring, frequently done begrudgingly as other more delicious delights beckon. Sometimes a smooth, easy rhythm sets in and for days or weeks, practicing is easy, effortless and we think, “Ah, I’ve got it now,” only to be shocked when the inevitable distractions reappear.

Practice builds muscle, but not in the way of strength training as the muscle being built is far more complex than the pecs or abs of the body. While the body is involved in the type of practice I’m pointing to, so is the heart, the psyche and uniquely, the spirit.

So practice, whether meditation, Inquiry, Qigong or other work on The Path, is both rigorous and simple, hard, yet easy, deeply moving and deeply affecting and sometimes superficial feeling.

For beginners, it is especially challenging as it comes with few “benchmarks.’ The very shifts one might point to represent “striving” or “achieving” – both to be avoided on a spiritual path.

So what keeps one on the path? Why continue to practice?

Faith and devotion are the words that come up for me. Faith, that practice in and of itself, regardless of any outcome is “right action” as the Buddhists would say… or in the words of Jewish mystical teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Breslow, “ ‘Hitbodidut” – meditation – inner directed, unstructured, active self-expression before God – is the highest path of all. Take it.”

Tapping into the undifferentiated Oneness is practice whatever the methodology might look or sound like. Of course, that’s a big statement. And the faith, I point to is that the Universe, or God or The Motherhead exist as that Oneness.

Devotion represents returning again and again to the practice – a devotion to self, Self and whatever you name the interconnection of all creation as evidenced in action.

So back to the lovely S. As I watched her awareness and fear of the physical pain recede, as I saw her come shining forward from a larger space than her body and mind – to join her spirit in joy, I saw the evidence for ongoing, continued practice as “the way.”

And as I watched difficulty transform into opportunity, I one again realized that while not sexy in the standard definition, practice is necessary and revitalizing and reconnecting. It brings together all of ourselves – our minds, hearts, bodies and spirits.

Naturally, the practice I’m talking about is lifelong – not the coaching variety that I often assign my clients. Those are short term and serve a very specific function, build upon one another and address particular outcomes.

What I am pointing to here is the sustaining practice of bringing more and more consciousness forward – a living into the Truth of Reality that doesn’t end with a particular outcome achieved.

Interestingly, both types of practice bring up some of the same frustrations with different intensity. (Knowing a practice is to last 4 weeks makes it more doable than a lifelong commitment.) Yet, all practice demands faith and devotion. Faith, in the efficacy of the practice, the intention behind it and the coach offering it, and devotion to the self – its development and growth.

Watching S. practice in the hospital room with our friends, renewed in my own devotion and my own faith. I strengthened my intention to be consistent in my practice and also compassionate with myself when that was challenging.

I invite you, dear reader, into this action as well – a nourishment for all situations, all beings, all time. And remind you that compassion is an act of love so as you take up your practice, either for the first time or again, bring on the compassion around your intention. Truth demands it.

If you’re thinking about your development, The Valiant Group can support you with suggested practices individually tailored, accountability and an objective reflection of your next steps. It begins with a conversation. Call us at 510-722-3292.

Connect or Your Health Will Suffer

“Copious scientific data proves that loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking or lack of exercise, and finding your tribe is better than any vitamin, diet, or exercise regimen.”

– Lissa Rankin, M.D.

You’re smart. You’re savvy.You’re conscious. You keep up.

You don’t smoke. You know all about “trans-fats” and bad cholesterol. You read up on the latest health advice, get regular check-ups and are aware of your need for sleep.

You try hard to exercise and eat well, avoid all the “bad” stuff and drink in moderation. Perhaps you’ve cut out (or back) sugar and caffeine. You know that taking care of yourself is an important responsibility.

Do you also know that loneliness has a more powerful effect on your health than all of the above?

What’s the BEST health advice for you?

Lissa Rankin is an MD who recently wrote the runaway NYT bestselling book Mind Over Medicine. In it she MOM-final-cover1digs deep into peer-reviewed medical research from the most reputable establishments on the planet in an effort to discover what really causes and/or prevents disease.

Connection is important – more important than what you eat or how much you exercise. Yet, it rarely is spoken about in the media. You don’t see ads for “make friends” like you see for “drink milk”. Maybe you should!

In your brain, you have a connection making hormone, oxytocin, which builds your social self. When you’re connected to another person, it floods your brainwaves, makes your stress level decrease and you feel good.

Oxytocin has come through thousands of years of evolution, telling us that despite our best efforts to see ourselves as separate, special individuals, we are social creatures – bound to one another and yet unique. And when those bonds are weak – you suffer.

Who do you spend time with? Who is in your tribe? Is it time to expand your tribe? How often do you really talk frankly to a friend, lover, partner? How much do you reveal of what’s on your mind, especially when it’s troubling?

If you are really committed to your own well-being, check your calendar. When was the last time you spent an evening with friends, had dinner with someone close, took a walk and talked sincerely about what’s happening in your life? If those events are infrequent, sporadic or non-existent for long periods of time, you are hurting yourself. It’s time to change things up.

Ask yourself: Who do I spend time with? Who is in my tribe? Is it time to expand my tribe? How often do I to really talk frankly to a friend, lover, partner? How much do I reveal of what’s on my mind, in my heart, especially when its troubling?

If your answers are: infrequently, now is the time to change that. Here are some ways to do it

  1. Deepen relationships you already have by changing the conversation. Sports and work chat are fine, but it’s time to go deeper.
  2. Look around at your life and see what potential friends are lurking in the background. Move at least one person a week forward with a phone call, lunch date, conversation over the water cooler that’s more than gossip or task related. Then see who you resonate with and take it deeper.
  3. Put spending time with an important someone on the calendar as a regular “date”. Don’t expect chance to make it happen. You must make it happen – and regularly.

Well-being is more than what you eat, how much exercise and rest you get. It includes how much stress you experience. And it’s about how well and how often you connect with others.


Do you make time for connection? Do you feel like it’s enough or do you need more? Please share your comments here, thanks.

Productivity isn’t about simply “getting things done”

Hi It’s Annette and The Valiant Group,

Are you being as productive as you want to be?

Productivity isn’t about simply “getting things done”.

It’s about moving into your dreams…dreams for career, business, relationship, service, creativity, and the exploration of what’s possible in your life…by creating outcomes instead of just checking the “to-do’s” off the list.

pareto ruleNow, you’ve probably heard of Pareto’s 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your input.

So, for example, if you have 10 things that you could do to do to get a new client, what are the two most important, highest leverage actions that you can take to reach that outcome? Do those two things first…then do then do the other things on the list if you have time (or outsource / delegate them).

This is a perspective and strategy that has contributed to the successes of tens of thousands of people, worldwide.

If you’ve not already seen it, this 5 Minute Planning Tool is easy way to get more productive by leveraging the power of the 80/20 rule.

You’ll be amazed at the outcomes you achieve, the flow in your day, and the peace in your mind and heart.

If you’re tired of just being “busy” and ready to triple your productivity, results, and success everyday, enjoy the video (10 minutes) if you haven’t already.



P.S. Are you ready to make your dreams a real part of your life? Imagine how it will feel to get things done (the RIGHT things) and get out of overwhelm!

Your Past Lives On: Transform Your Shadow

shadowWilliam Faulkner,  the great American writer said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Proof came to light over and over again as we explored the shadow during the 3 week Transforming Your Shadow tele-summit with our wide range of masters and thought leaders.

Discussing parenting,  Dr. Chris White explained that what we deny in ourselves becomes “unacceptable” in our children and we are triggered when we encounter it. When triggered, our best intentions for providing love and support falter. The answer? Do your own work! Sort of like “put on your own mask, first”, as cautioned by flight attendants, the world over.

And with money, author of Money, Spirituality, Consciousness, Mayuri Onerheim explained that our early family beliefs and actions around money, whether they expressed abundance or scarcity, caution, openness or secrecy, generosity or hoarding finds its way into your own shadow material around money.

So the past, your past, lives on. As you navigate relationships, what was modeled for you, accepted by your caretakers, approved of, shows up again and again.

Did your parents like one another? Play? Were they affectionate, What was discussed and what was suppressed. How did they express sexuality?  What roles did they assign gender?

You didn’t leave it all behind when you left home!  The parts of you that weren’t appreciated or accepted may have gone far underground, but you’re still carrying them. And when something triggers a strong reaction, you can be sure, your shadow is behind it.

Also, as David Richo explained, your projections onto others sheds light on your own material.

Triggered by a controlling partner (in business or life)? Most likely there’s a controlling part of you that you’re denying. And the way to work with that is to begin to admit to yourself what lurks beneath consciousness. You may shy away from the controlling parts of yourself from an experience (or belief) that controlling people are manipulative, demanding and worse, domineering.

Using the example of control,  if you can you see that controlling also has many positive aspects, you can soften to it, open. For instance, people who control, get things done; attend to the details, follow through. They are often leaders.

So control itself isn’t either bad or good – how it manifests sets the scene.

Can you access that part of you leaving the negative aspects on the cutting room floor and go with the positive features?

What it takes is first surfacing your own tendency towards control ( or fear of it), and then with compassion and gentleness, befriending it.

Sometimes people fear control because they don’t want to lose acceptance and approval. They act as though they easily “go with the flow” but “act” is the operant word since their actions are motivated by fear and therefore inauthentic.

You could go through an entire list of strong, emotional reactions you have towards others, projections, they are called in the world of psychology. And begin to mine the “gold’ in each one by examining where in you the quality that upsets you (even angers you) lives.

By finding the gifts in the quality,  and slowly embracing it while leaving out what seems unloving or unkind, you can begin to lay claim to it – expanding towards your fullness, your richness, leaving nothing out.

The key to this work is compassion. Working through the “thousand disguises” as Jung called them, requires lots of it. Even when you’re uncovering the secret gifts that you’ve hidden in the dark.

For example if you play “small” at work, keep your ideas to yourself, rarely speak out or up, you may be motivated by a fear of standing out and the responsibility that comes with greatness. No less shadow material, your intelligence or creativity hides under the surface.

And don’t forget that these are not simply ideas and beliefs that reside in your mind. Over time, these patterns have rooted in your body, causing certain repeating constrictions…creating a shape, you might say.

When working with your shadow, movement and breathing that creates more ease, more space is required too. Liberating you not only from beliefs and fear, but from actual muscle tensions and contractions, physical practice is important and again, best done with compassion and gentleness.

Naturally, this work is best done with guidance, support and accountability. Doesn’t all change benefit from that? Yet, should you want to get started on your own here is a beginning practice:

  • Keep a list for one week.
  • Jot down whatever traits upset you about another person you encounter regularly. (These traits may come from several people in your life – family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.)
  • Acknowledge these traits are somehow true of you.
  • Look inside and find these traits, however well hidden they may be.
  • Ask: What about this trait is useful or positive?

       What about this trait do I fear?

       How can I live into the positive side of this trait without taking on the negative?

  • If possible, share this with a trusted friend after taking a few breaths and extending the exhale.
  • Remember to be kind to yourself as you begin uncovering your shadow!

Remember the 5 Needs that helped formed our shadow: Attention, Appreciation, Acceptance, Affection and Allowing ( to be yourself). As you look at the traits that trigger you, ask yourself how they connect to the 5 basic needs.

To learn more about working with your shadow, virtually, in small groups and individually, contact us at www.thevaliantgroup.com

Mindfulness is Not Enough

mindfulness-istock-prvSorry,  my friends, but mindfulness is not enough.

Why you ask? There’s so much evidence for the benefits – hardcore scientific evidence.

True, I say and I’m a proponent – don’t get me wrong.

I’m not saying mindfulness practices aren’t important – of course they are – essential even. I’m saying that alone, they aren’t enough. Here’s why.

Long before you were able to take up a mindfulness practice, you developed a personality.

And that personality, in the first let’s say 7 years of your life, was deeply impressed by what your caretakers, felt, thought, modeled, liked and disliked.

Did they approve of risk taking? Did they frown on assertiveness preferring “good manners”?

Did they reward savings and question spending? How did they handle clinginess or expressions of anger or desire or sibling rivalry?

Because as a very young person, you needed ( not just wanted, but needed) to feel safe and loved,  and you were so vulnerable, you developed traits and behaviors that were approved of. You  shunted other parts of yourself into “the shadow”. It was intelligent. It made you feel secure.

These disowned parts could be either “good” or “bad” – didn’t matter. Some got splintered off because having them triggered survival issues – fear of abandonment, fear of losing nourishment, support, safety, approval.

For example, if your parents got upset when you showed generosity and said something like, “You’ll be taken advantage of. You have to watch out for other people. Be very careful.” The quality of generosity in yourself may have gone underground only to live on in your shadow.

Maybe your parents  really approved of self-sufficiency and so you tried to be strong, responsible, take the initiative. You may have sent the part of you that needed support,  undercover.  And when it surfaces in your adult life now, like your generosity, you start feeling really uncomfortable, unsafe- as though your survival depends on staying strong though you know all people need support at one time or another.

The problem is your mind can’t make sense of the discomfort, anxiety, fear because they don’t live in the mind. They live in your body.

It makes sense to your mind that of course, everyone has needs, why not you?  Yet your body still connects to the young person’s sense of insecurity when you step away from the approval and love of your Mommy (or whoever cared for you).

And as you grow up, your culture adds to your shadow material. It too approves of some traits and behaviors and represses others. More suffering in twisting to “fit in” and ‘succeed” by the culture’s definition.

And because this shadow operates unconsciously, mindfulness isn’t enough. Mindfulness alone won’t surface your shadow material. You have to set out on the hero’s journey to uncovered and reclaim those parts of you that you lost along the way. The hero’s journey, after facing great obstacles is always a coming home to yourself…the true you, the whole you..

I call it a hero’s journey because as Robert Johnson said, “The process of civilization involves suppressing into our shadow side those traits and patterns that are not culturally acceptable. This sorting process is quite arbitrary. Individualism, for instance, is a great virtue in some societies and the greatest sin in others. But this sorting process is two-edged — some of the pure gold of our personalities is relegated to the shadow because it can find no place in the great leveling process that is culture. Curiously, people resist the noble aspects of their shadow more strenuously than they hide the dark sides.

It takes  a concerted effort, true courage  to live into your wholeness, fulfillment and authenticity and you can’t do it alone.

Come join with like-minded others in Transforming Your Shadow – a 3 week virtual event where thought leaders and masters provide wisdom, tools and support for this journey home to yourself.

At no charge, you can join in the conversation at www.transformingyourshadow.com

Week One: Money, Calling and Your Shadow

Wow! The first week of my Transforming Your Shadow telesummit just ended and what a week it was!  Now is the time to reflect!  What does it mean to live into a dream? Certainly not what I thought and yet so much more!  More complex – rich, yeasty, meaty and more.  Challenging – a stretch, an ache and a joy.

Transforming Your Shadow is a cheeky undertaking. Rather than offering quick fix solutions to all your problems or promises of  wealth, love and happiness in 3 easy steps, it invites us all into a deeper understanding, a greater awareness – a process that entails confronting our pain, our suffering. Only the courageous sign up for such an undertaking and I’m learning to accept, only the courageous offer it. There I’ve said it out loud. I am bringing out of the shadows an aspect of myself I’ve seldom acknowledged – my courage.

So what was it like, you ask, to pull off a feat with so many moving parts?

Front and center were extraordinary moments AND gripping fears. The fears showed up around money – which we learned from Mayuri Onerheim, author of Money, Spirituality and Consciousness, arise from old family structures unconsciously taken on which never hit awareness. (And the social shadows surrounding money.) I got to work with those as I waited for people to purchase what I felt was a fount of wisdom and guidance for a very affordable investment.

Extraordinary moments wove through some of the interviews when a guest shared an insight in blazingly clear language that rushed listeners into an an ”aha”. Or when they provided an action step that had the audience saying, “Yes, I’m doing that, today.” Sometimes, the sigh of recognition wafted loudly, as a shadow element was described.

Other extraordinary moments occurred when I noticed, I was doing something challenging and new – running a control panel, interviewing people I greatly admired – choreographing  the needs of the technology, the audience, the speaker and myself simultaneously for the first  time ever, and enjoying myself. Who would have thunk it? I could even bring poetry into it – a joy!

As Gregg Levoy shared insights about the suffering in ignoring your calling and how to tune into the body’s whispering, and Rita Hovakimian told listeners the 4 Money Mirror types each held in emotion, beliefs and behaviors, emails and texts flooded in thanking me for providing this opportunity.

Yet there is more to come. We’ll be tuning into the suffering around of meaningful work, intimacy, leadership and  parenting and bringing more consciousness to each in the coming week – and more after that.

I’m breathing deeply in appreciation and feel the enlivening energy flow as I contemplate what’s ahead. Yep, and I know that there are more lessons ahead, for me, my incredibly supportive team, the speakers and  you, he audience.

Come join in the conversation – profound, fascinating, human.

Join us at: www.transformingyourshadow.com.  You’ll have immediate access to the remaining live calls and…for an exceptionally small investment…have the replays of all of them in your personal transformation library. In addition, free gifts from the amazing speakers are yours too – gifts like preview chapters of books, mantras for love making,  coaching sessions, money archetype assessments and, more.

I look forward to sharing.

The Skinny on Leadership and Conflict

You’ve read, talked and thought about conflict – experienced it – and if you’re like most humans, you hate it!

Yet, conflict, as I’ve stated in earlier blogs, gets a bad rap.

Why? Because it makes you confront your fears and doubts and often immobilizes you. At best, it confuses you. Yet it can be highly useful, a creative opportunity, if held as generative. Generative means having the power to originate or produce, bring forward something new. What gets in the way of using it this way? You do!

Great leaders have trained themselves to handle conflict. They’ve learned what gifts it brings and how to channel it for clear, informed and creative decision making. You can too.

Your (and everyone’s) self-image and sense of possibility show up through the physical structure and holding patterns in your body. Yes, that’s right.

You award your “mind” the trophy for directing your life, but the Oscar is going to the wrong contender.

Not about dress size or basketball playing height or conforming to cultural “norms” of beauty or strength, patterns – developed over years – tell you, and the world, who you take yourself to be. That speaks to what the future may hold for you.

In times of change or conflict, you get anxious and wound up. Trying to solve problems from this physical and mental spinout generates more confusion, poor results. No wonder things get worse rather than better.

In contrast, when you begin to shift these physical patterns, you gain new possibility for who you can be in the world. By settling down physically, you experience a sense of visceral calm and mental ease that removes you from the cyclone of messy thoughts.

It allows a fresh perspective on yourself and the situation. By changing your shape (how you hold your body) , you change how you think and feel about yourself so you can take new action. Isn’t that a much better place out of which to make decisions, to lead? Of course it is!

Sensing into your body which informs your mind and spirit, leads to transformation.

“So how can I make that change?” you ask.

You begin by learning to notice.

For starters, ask yourself:

What happens to my body during conflict or confusion?

(Hint: Contractions? Particularly in the pelvis or buttocks, rib cage or chest?

What goes on with my breathing?

(Hint: Does it move upwards into the higher reaches of the chest or the throat? Does it shorten?)

What happens to my vision?

(Hint: Does it narrow to a swath in front of you, maybe hiding the former periphery?)

By the way, these questions are most useful DURING the experience, not after. That separates the data from your interpretation. And once isn’t enough. You have to gather enough data, particularly the more elusive kind to begin to see your unique pattern.

Once you’ve established the pattern, you can begin to make the shift.

One of the most important openings comes by extending your exhale and gently bringing the inhale lower into the belly. Making an audible sound on the exhale, helps.

And as you continue to breathe this way, send your attention to the contracted places, softening and opening up in increments. (Sometimes it helps to imagine the breath actually going to those places and expanding them.)

Notice whether you can soften your eyes enough during this breathing practice to expand the cone of your vision without straining. Can you allow sights to come to you, rather than you “going out to get them?”

And can you do the same for sounds, letting them in rather than going on a mining expedition to gather them up?

As your attention begins to become more nuanced to the workings of your body, notice what happens to your fingers and hands. Can these relax?

You’ll want to practice when you can notice – and do it regularly. This will support the speed at which you can put the practice to work when most needed.

And practice means committing to at least 21 days – consecutively. It only takes a few minutes at a time, maybe 5. Want to make it most powerful?  Do it at the same time each day – as an anchor for the habit, maybe upon brushing your teeth or or just before bed.

As you learn to do this, what happens is that you configure a broad understanding of how to calm yourself down while including more (sight and sound). That allows you to have influence over a wider territory. (Yes, people will be included in that territory who will benefit by your calm and clarity.)

As you settle down your nervous system and shift to this new shape, the ease in your body extends to your thoughts. They join the party by becoming more porous, flexible and creative.

What a boost to your creative leadership skills!

And as your fear of conflict lessens its tight grip – your “mindful interest” (as Wendy Palmer calls it in Leadership Embodiment: How We Sit and Stand Can Change the Way We Think and Speak) grows, letting your wider perspective inform your conversations and actions.

Neuroscience has played a strong role in demonstrating the science of this practice. (See my blog on Change.) Yet you don’t have to study the brain for years to make the shift. As you begin to work with body and its patterns, you and everyone you deal with benefit.

Conflict is not the only challenge that executives, entrepreneurs, consultants and coaches deal with. And inside every challenge is the seed of opportunity. I invite you to join me for this high value, no cost strategy session where you learn the most effective ways to be productive, powerful and resourceful…ESPECIALLY during challenges…so you can rocket to the top of your game and enjoy the successes that you’ve achieved, in your business and in your life.