Sunday, July 17, 2016


Do you ever feel that what you’re chasing, what you desire, is just out of reach? When you think of your desire for your future, and your intentions for yourself, whatever you are working towards, do you ever ask yourself whether you fully expect it to be fulfilled; do you really believe it can happen? Do you believe you are actually ‘good enough’ or that you deserve it - or maybe not quite?

Try to imagine having achieved your desired state. Is it easy? Does it feel natural and right? Or is it difficult? Your deeply held beliefs or the emotional expectations you have may not be the same as your desires and intentions. If there is a gap between your desired goal or intention and your expectation of actually achieving it, this will influence your actions both consciously and subconsciously, because the choices you make and the steps you take will always be driven by your emotions and emotional expectations. The greater the gap, the more your actions will interfere with you achieving your desired intention.

Author and teacher Deepak Chopra says; ‘Within every desire and intention are the mechanics for its fulfilment’. I have seen countless indications of this being true, but I have also learned that it requires the alignment of emotional expectations with the desired intention, and the first step is being able to feel the feeling of the desired intention – fulfilled.

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you can actually generate that feeling, in your body, as if your wish was already fulfilled, you will find that expectation gap gradually decreasing. The more you generate this new 'fulfilled' feeling, eventually integrating it so that it is with you throughout your day, the smaller the gap will become. In essence you are moving from feeling and thinking about the desired result to feeling and thinking from it.

To explore this idea (and how to use the power of managing emotions) further, or for more information, contact us!

Monday, March 7, 2016


It is said that money makes the world go round. I beg to differ. In my observation emotions make the world go round. Human emotions drive everything – from anger or fear-driven acts and the worst hatred induced atrocities, to deeds of unbelievable courage or compassion, and the most divine acts of love. All human behaviour is driven by emotion. 

The word EMOTION comes from the Latin e-movere, meaning to move out or through, as in propelling movement, a force set in motion. The originators of the word must have been acutely aware of the dynamic, stirring energy created by human feelings, energy moving through body and brain, constantly shifting, shaping our thoughts, our actions, and our lives. Much like dance moves and dancers shape a ballet or dance piece, although that might seem a lot more orderly and graceful than our emotion-driven behaviour. Or is that necessarily so?

A dance piece or ballet can look organized and seemingly effortless because it is choreographed. But can we really choreograph emotions? Can we choose what we feel and manage our emotions so we are in control of how they move through us, and how they come across to others?
Some may argue that this is impossible because emotions are often triggered without our conscious knowledge. However, my experience has been that it is not only possible, but hugely beneficial (and there are plenty of studies supporting this.)

So how do we choose our emotions? 
We begin by noticing – paying close attention to what we are feeling and where in our body that feeling registers. The more we take our attention out of our busy minds and connect with our bodies, the more we are likely to notice physical tension from emotions, tensions registered there because our emotions live in our bodies. Such increased awareness gives us early warning signs of unhelpful emotions, which in turn allows for much easier self-management – we can assess whether the indications of a potentially strong emotion are appropriate to the situation, and if not, whether we need to take steps to change how we feel and adopt another perspective. For example, we may feel irritated by several small events in the morning, but with our renewed awareness of the resulting say neck tension, we can take some deep breaths or otherwise release that tension and regain a more balanced perspective, rather than blowing our top in the evening having allowed it to build throughout the day until it has become full blown fury.

This is the beginning of what I refer to as emotion choreography. And like a full-length ballet or dance performance, there are numerous steps that contribute to the mastery of emotional management – and all are extraordinarily satisfying to master, including and especially the interactive ones, for as a species, we are also driven to connect with each other, at a very basic level. We actually have a specific brain circuitry that directs our response to one another’s bodies in motion! Imagine for a moment watching a trapeze artist flying through the air; don’t we all feel the soaring sensation as well as the excitement? When we see a physical fight, don’t we wince at the blows? When we feel someone’s emotional pain, it’s not merely the expression on their face we mirror, but their bodily posture, and the emotional tension they emit. This empathic capacity is something most of us could, if we are honest, manage better. We can actually learn to ‘choreograph’ our emotional responses so we allow less of our own judgment and opinions to interfere with our empathy, with our ability to truly step into someone else’s shoes, making us better able to offer the support that’s actually needed (rather than being driven by our own agenda).

The most powerful of all the steps of the choreography of emotions is the feel-good factor; when we enhance and strengthen our ‘emotional capital’ by fully embracing our positive feelings; the exuberance of sudden inspiration or the peace of a quiet walk, the pleasure we feel when we watch a dancer or athlete move gracefully or our wonder at seeing beauty in nature, the delight of witnessing a child’s first steps, or the feeling of happiness in a loving interaction. If we give ourselves permission to fully relish those pleasurable feelings, savouring them for that little bit longer, enjoying them with our entire body, we strengthen the ‘muscles’ that ultimately give us more of a choice about what we feel, taking crucial steps towards being in charge of our emotional dance, to create ‘choreography’ we will, most likely, review favourably. 

Monday, November 9, 2015


A popular saying in the 60’s, ‘Becoming is better than being’ expressed the idea that growth was more desirable than a permanent state. It is a notion whose time has come again – this time around not so much as an ideology but as a result of research - research that I for one, am thrilled to read.
As a young (and very average) student ballet dancer ‘back in the day’, I was fleetingly encouraged by a claim that to be successful required only two percent talent and ninety-eight percent hard work. Unfortunately, my hard work seemed to go unnoticed and I felt increasingly discouraged and timid, gradually withdrawing from situations where my lack of self-confidence might be reinforced. The success I sought eluded me until I finally applied the hard work to the areas in which I was perceived to have ‘talent’. Two different careers later I discovered that I had been raised with a not-so-helpful ‘fixed’ mindset; when talent and abilities are praised and rewarded, and mistakes and efforts that fall short are indicators of lack of ability and to be discouraged or avoided. Conversely, a ‘growth’ mindset -viewing faults and failure as opportunities for growth- is a mindset that, I discovered, not only gradually reveals untapped abilities but opens doors of previously unimagined possibilities.
The terms ‘growth mindset and ‘fixed mindset’ were coined by one of the leading researchers in the field, Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University, who is also often credited with popularising the ‘Becoming is better than being’ quote. Her research has attracted increasing attention among educators and mental health professionals because her findings show that, rather than focusing on intelligence and innate achievement, it is far more important to reward effort, creative strategies, and perseverance.
This growth mindset is all about ‘becoming’. It views the process; the effort; the ‘journey’; the growth itself as having more value than ‘being’ in the accomplished state. Although we are all inclined to praise intelligence and ability in both ourselves and in our children, research shows that this actually creates a ‘fixed mindset’ resulting in fragile people without the resilience needed to effectively tackle adversity or to persevere in the face of difficulty. With such a mindset, when we feel rejected or disappointed, we immediately think ‘I’m not likeable. I’m not approved of – I’m not a good enough person’, feeling guilt or shame for having done something negative or failed to achieved a goal. However, with a growth mindset we think ‘I am not happy with what I did. It’s inconsistent with my values. How can I better understand it? What can I learn from it? How can I make up for it and improve in the future?
Dweck is often asked to compare her findings with the ever-popular Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and her response is particularly interesting. “CBT often says “Don’t think you’re not a smart person because you didn’t get an A. Look at all the other A’s you got – you’re a smart person.” But in the mindset framework, we’re saying “Get out of the smart-person framework entirely, Stop thinking about that the good or bad measures you but rather think of yourself as a work in progress.” CBT asks you to find evidence to challenge the argument, and we’re saying it’s the wrong argument.”
I find this particularly interesting because it validates and supports our work with Applied Emotional Mastery – where we focus on the feeling state and using the management of emotions to help better understand, learn from, and continuously improve – whether it’s in relationships, parenting, managing others or opening our own mind up to more possibilities; in other words to develop a growth mindset.
So, as we approach a new year again, why not start treating your mistakes, and your children’s mistakes, as exciting, interesting, perfect opportunities for learning and growth, and for building resilience. Had that been my mindset as a young dancer, who knows, age aside I might still be prancing around ‘en pointe’!

Monday, August 17, 2015


What does it actually take to operate from a mindful, considered, 'grown-up' place, on a day-to-day basis? With the increasingly popular mindfulness practices, meditation apps, and 'being in the present moment' concepts, all written and talked about wherever we turn, shouldn't we be getting good at it by now? – It all sounds really good, and simple, but sometimes it’s easier to put into words than to put into practice! Especially when we're presented with life’s assorted messes, when the proverbial .... hits the fan and when our buttons are pushed by other people – again and again! It’s not easy, that’s for sure! 
But as with anything that’s difficult or 'easier said than done', a few brief guidelines or tips to hang on the fridge can be more practically helpful than the most convincing, eloquently written book or even app. 
Short, simple, practical tips can go a long way towards helping us be the mindful, considered person we’d like to be, -in the office, in traffic, at the breakfast table- no matter what others get up to!

Here’s a few such tips I have found to be helpful:


Be in ownership of your emotions. For example, when you feel disturbed or annoyed, label your own feelings rather than people (i.e. ‘I feel frustrated right now.’ rather than ‘You’re so lazy!’)

Be mindful of your own physical needs: Have you slept enough? Are you dehydrated? Hungry? Exhausted? If so, take care of your needs. Once the physical needs have been met, you’ll be better able to manage your emotions.

Be in acknowledgment when your negative emotions aren’t serving you.
Take a Time-Out  so you can Take a ‘Time-in’. (A ten-minutes break from a situation, for a few slow breaths and calm self-reflection, can help you self-regulate to problem-solve or at the very least de-escalate the situation.)


Do look for learning and growth in your negative emotions. In the words of my grandmother: ‘Nothing is so bad that it’s not good for something.”

Do respectfully validate other people’s feelings, regardless of what you think of them AND regardless of their age. Nobody's feelings are wrong.

Do place your own agenda aside for just 30 seconds in order to step into someone else’s shoes. What must it feel like to be them right now?


Do not play the blame game or ‘send someone on a guilt-trip!’ It never ends well!

Avoid judging or criticizing others. Whenever you can, acknowledge everyone’s unique path and emotional reality – nobody’s reality is the same.

Do not try to control or change others. (It ain’t possible! Honestly!)

Last but not least, make sure you're having some laughter and play in your life! (Have you noticed how often the Dalai Lama is caught on camera laughing?) 

Friday, June 5, 2015


I was once invited to give a workshop to a team of educational psychologists. One of them was not happy to be there; ‘I don’t need this,’ she grumbled, ‘I leave my emotions at home!’ I hope by the end of the training she’d had a change of heart. You can’t leave your emotions at home any more than you can leave your head, (much as we all might sometimes wish to!) Of course we would all like to think we can control our emotions, put them on hold, suppress them or even avoid them altogether. But no matter how good we get at this, if our words and actions are not congruent with how we actually feel, we are inauthentic and we risk being perceived as such. Even if you’ve practiced your body language and facial expressions down to a T, even if you have blocked your emotion from your own awareness, you will emanate what you are really feeling – and it’s going to be picked up. This is evidenced by research, both on the heart’s electromagnetic field (see - Research) and on the brain’s mirror-neuron system using fMRI and other analysis (Siegel 2010), as well as in a plethora of other research studies – not that we need research to know it; I imagine many of you reading this have had personal experiences with this phenomena.  

Human beings are like an iceberg that is 90% submerged under water, with only 10% being visible. If a storm comes through from east to west you might be forgiven for believing that the iceberg will move west with the storm. However, if there is an undercurrent going in another direction, the iceberg will move with the current, because the current controls 90% of it. The same is true of us humans. The only difference being that we like to think we can control everything with our 10% and discount the power of our undercurrent – our emotions.

Knowing and being with our true emotions, daring to fully look ‘underneath’ so we can discover what our emotions are telling us, is the work of emotional mastery. It is also, ultimately, to develop the self-regulatory skills that, when we choose to use them, generate a feeling that is aligned with our actions (rather than feigning an emotion or control). We all have the ability to do just that – even in these times of distraction, over-stimulation, anxiety and chaos. Your ability to both understand your emotions and to manage them so you can generate a coherent, centred state when you need to, -to manage that undercurrent- is also a part of human nature and when you use that ability, it will positively affect everyone around you; “your field effect” can give you more authenticity and believability than anything else you do. In all my years of working on myself, and with parents, executives, teachers, management teams, and all those who are not in charge of anyone but themselves, I have found this to be a universal truth. 

Suggestion:  Post something by your front door to remind yourself of the impact you have – with your words as well as your 'field effect'- as you walk out into the world. Take a deep breath with a long exhale - and smile :-)  Throughout your day, check yourself and your feelings in your body: ask yourself Am I congruent? 

I used to post a quote by General Lee by my front door; “If you do not enjoy what you’re doing, you will be found out.” 

Happy summer everyone! 


Monday, February 2, 2015


 In Asian languages, the word for mind is usually the same as the word for heart. 
In this time when mindfulness has become a trend so popular it’s just about gone viral, it could be worth considering whether such a linguistic fact may be relevant to the true practice of mindfulness; is it just about simply quieting the mind and being fully present in the moment (as many describe it), or should it also somehow involve the heart? And if the answer is ‘yes’ (as the more serious practitioners have it), what does that look like?

Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years – as a part of the Buddhist religion but also in other forms, and framed in many ways. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, (the originator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction MBSR, and responsible for bringing mindfulness to both medical and mainstream popularity) “If you’re not hearing the word heartfulness when you’re hearing the word mindfulness, you’re really not understanding what it’s all about. ……. Mindfulness is pointing at something beyond words, underneath words, underneath thinking.” 

So what is underneath words and thinking? What is heartfulness? Some would say it’s the wisdom of the heart, and others would say it is feelings such as love, compassion, and kindness. I would say it’s all of the above and more, for it involves the balanced management of emotions. The heart reflects the emotions we feel, revealed in the patterns created by the heart’s rhythms. When our emotions are brought into our awareness and we learn to manage them so they serve us, our relationships, our life-path and our values, then our heart rhythms will be harmonious - and coherent with a fully present mind. On the other hand, if those emotions are disturbing or unpleasant and unmanaged, so too are the rhythms of the heart. At this point our conscious mind will take a hike up into the busy-ness of our ‘monkey brain’, and mindfulness will no longer happen.

Mind and heart must combine to create the deeper present moment awareness –the mindfulness- that gives us the ability to accept and take pleasure in each moment of work and play, to fully listen to those we dialog with, to deeply appreciate each interaction with loved ones, to savour each morsel we eat and drink, to relish tastes and smells and sights and sounds, delight in musical notes as they reach our ears and in views as we glance upon them, and to surrender to the experience of life, in all it’s glory and messiness. In short, mindfulness need not be a passing fad, or a short-term, fast-acting replacement for pain-killers or anti-depressants, or even the latest way to deal with the stresses and strains of modern or corporate life.

Mindfulness in it’s true form is heartfulness – (it is in the work we do with Applied Emotional Mastery as well as in the work of many of our contemporaries and peers); - it's message is to maximize good and minimize harm, both to oneself and others. It is a daily decision, a way of life, a discipline (in the best sense of the word), that increases awareness and acceptance, insights and wisdom, and that helps us BE fully in-the-moment and (to paraphrase Viktor Frankl) conscious of that space between stimulus and response – where we can pause to make more informed choices - where we can choose to move in the direction of maximizing good.

So even if commercialism takes over and the popularity of mindfulness eventually wanes, the message it has brought and spread, and the heartfulness within it, will surely only have contributed positively to our planet. And (quite fitting for this 'month of the heart') I figure that's good news, however you look at it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I recently read somewhere “If you want to be happy, drop out of your head and into your life.” It made me think of how most of us spend too much time in our heads, pondering the past, worrying about the future and forgetting to live fully in our current experiences - and appreciate them all, even the unpleasant moments – for how will we grow from them if we don’t know them? 

One way to ‘drop into life’ is to write it – write what you’re feeling, thinking, experiencing. There’s nothing like it for capturing those everyday life moments. And now there’s even scientific evidence for the powerful effects writing can have on us!

One study found that writing about emotions and stress decreased the chances of becoming ill or damaged by traumatic events. Participants who wrote about their feelings spent less time in hospital and enjoyed lower blood pressure than their counterparts. In another study, writing about emotions and thoughts showed participants had significantly increased optimism, and improved health and general well being.

If you want to journal but can’t think what to write, try this: Get a small, pocket-sized journal that you can carry around with you. Throughout your day, whenever you have a moment jot down you emotions, whatever you’re feeling at that time. Then notice how your body feels, noting where you might be feeling any tension or tightness. You may find food for thought and even for writing more extensively about later in the day.

Another ‘short-and-sweet’ way to journal is to write down 3 things you can feel appreciation for, right now. Follow that with slowing your breathing and being fully present in your body, for the next ten minutes, feeling that appreciation!

You might also try free-form journal writing - just letting the pen in your hand write whatever comes to you. Regardless of how you approach it, don’t let the simplicity of journaling deceive you into underestimating its significance. Regular journaling –especially writing about feelings – can make a profound difference to your life – emotionally and otherwise. To quote author Madeleine L’Engle
“It was while writing a diary that I discovered how to capture the living moments.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Hedgehog and the Human

Have you heard of the hedgehogs’ dilemma? The philosopher Schopenhauer wrote a parable about it more than a century ago. It went something like this: In the wintertime when the cold became almost unbearable, the hedgehogs tried to get close to each other, seeking to huddle together and share each others’ body heat. Unfortunately, as soon as they did, their spines pricked each other, which of course hurt and they recoiled. The cold however, drove them towards one other again but the same thing happened time and time again.  Eventually the hedgehogs learned that they were best off maintaining a little distance from each other – in their own space.

Freud quoted this parable in his explorations of human relationships, posing a number of questions including how much intimacy can we as humans actually endure? It’s a good question and one I think many of us grapple with at some time - I know I certainly have! It’s especially interesting –almost paradoxical– in light of the recent findings by neuro scientists that our brains are hard-wired to connect. In fact, the same circuitry that processes pain when we are not connecting (experiencing social rejection for example) is layered right on top of the circuits involved in physical pain. This isn’t surprising when we think of a baby’s need to connect with a parent or caregiver on whom the infant is completely dependent for food, water, shelter and safety. No connection, no survival!

But as we grow and become more able to take care of ourselves, we also experience rejection and loss, social pain as well as social pleasure – somewhat like the hedgehog. Curiously the brain’s circuitry that we use to navigate this, our social life and all relationships, is very different from the circuitry we use for problem solving and logical, coherent thinking. In fact, when one circuit is ‘switched on’ the other is in effect switched off. The more we function from a rational, practical or ‘sensible’ place, the less we are using our social antennae. The more we, for example, focus on solving a problem from a logical reasoning perspective, the more likely we are to distance ourselves from the other person or people around us (even those who could help us solve the problem!)  Conversely, the more we focus on relating to and communicating with others, the more we learn to understand how others might be feeling. Interestingly, we may also feel we are neglecting the ‘problems’ and even ‘wasting’ our time. A human dilemma, although maybe not as dramatic or black-and-white as the hedgehog’s :-) Good to be aware of, so we can better know ‘where we are coming from’ (and self-regulate if we decide it’s not appropriate!) Knowledge is power!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Savour the Smile!

Have you noticed how much more time and attention we give negative experiences than positive ones? How long we spend thinking and talking about troubles and stress, compared to how much time we give the good stuff? You may not be surprised to learn that, as humans, we have a bias towards negativity – generally. Our brain is actually wired that way. It is likely that this negativity bias relates to our ability for survival: if you feel threatened, for example by a speeding bus hurtling towards you or a vicious looking animal growling at you, the last thing you’d want to do is take your focus away from it! Whereas, if you’re enjoying a beautiful sunset or a striking flower, your attention will be much more easily distracted. All rather logical really, except we default to this negativity bias much more than we need to! AND we would be better served to give at least equal attention to those feel-good moments. Why? Well, recently neuro-science (research into the workings of the brain) has shown that our ability to access and sustain good feelings builds the pathways in the brain that we need for resilience - to bounce back from any difficulties or hardships; it is our ability to access and sustain the good feelings (the longer the better) that helps us stay self-managed and behave in the ways we want to, ways that are in accordance with our values; it is this ability for deepening and savouring the good feelings that helps us access and draw on our most wise and insightful capacity.

SO I invite you to embrace your own ability to generate good feelings, and to give some attention to consciously holding onto them as long as possible today - and tomorrow!

  • Relish that feeling of appreciation you have for your loved ones,
  • Savour the blue sky on your way to work, 
  • Delight in your tasty dinner, while you eat and long after, 
  • Remind yourself to delight in all the good things in your life each time you catch your own reflection. 
  • Smile. Hold it! It’s good for your brain!
 Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and Jesadaphorn/"

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Have you ever had a friend misinterpret something someone quoted you as saying or respond to a miscommunication, by snubbing you? Instead of speaking to you about it, such a person will stop speaking to you altogether, using their silence as a weapon or perceived punishment for - - -  you know not what! Rightly referred to as ‘passive aggression’, this is an experience most people I know have had to struggle with at some time in their lives. For me, the temptation to feel disappointed will be strong, even though I know it is only the result of unmet expectations – and my unrealistic expectations at that! If I am really honest with myself, I probably know the person well enough to know that this is their modus operandi – and not something I can control. If I let my frustration (with myself) and disappointment linger, it will only lead to resentment, which certainly won’t serve me at all! Letting it go is my best option, and finding the gift (yes, the gift! For instance: what can I appreciate about the new ‘non-relationship’? Or how can I shift into compassion for this person?) is for me, the easiest way to let go. A lifesaver, you might say!
I learned this lesson well, from a teacher in Hawaii many moons ago, who told me he was never disappointed. “Never disappointed?”! I asked incredulously. “Never disappointed because I never have any expectations,” he said. 
Very difficult to do – but something to strive for nonetheless! As several of my clients seem to have this issue theses days, and I myself have had it too, I feel inspired to share some more Hawaiian wisdom - the complete seven principles of Huna (the Hawaiian life philosophies), that have meant a great deal to me since I learned them from the same wise teacher.
May they inspire you too!

The world is what you think it is 
There are no limits 
Energy goes where attention flows 
Now is the moment of power
To love is to be happy with 
All power comes from within 
Effectiveness is the measure of truth

(With thanks to Serge Kahili King)


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