Cultivating Awareness

Interview with Eve on SoloPro Radio, August 21st!

I’m excited to let you know that I’ll be interviewed by certified coach and entrepreneur Bonnie Marie Kuhn on her “Entrepreneurs in Focus” program on SoloPro Radio, Tuesday, August 21st!  Bonnie Marie and I will talk about how and why I use somatic (body-energy) awareness as part of my work as a career and life transitions coach to enhance people’s ability to make successful personal and professional changes in their lives.  (Note: SoloPro Radio is a live call-in internet radio show for and about self-employed professionals.)

Tuesday, August 21st, 10 AM Pacific Time
CALL IN with your questions at 561/422-4365

Bonnie Marie contacted me because she’d seen on my website that I was a career and life transitions coach with a background in somatic (body-energy) therapy.  Like me, she is fascinated by how people can learn to change their lives in a conscious way by becoming attuned to the energetic possibilities of their bodies.

As a somatic therapist of over twenty years, I’ve had a lot of experience helping people move out of states of stress, pain, and tension into more open, flexible ways of living, both physically and emotionally.  Seven years ago, when I began training to be a life coach, I realized that letting people experience different ways to expand and move their body energy was also a very effective way to promote positive change in their lives.

You can feel this yourself if you keep one hand open and clench the other into a fist.  If you keep squeezing your fingers and thumbs with more and more effort into the palm of your hand, what do you notice?  Inevitably, you'll feel lots of tension in your hands moving up through your connecting arm.  Eventually, this sensation turns into pain and numbness as the pressure on the nerves increases.

This is not the condition in which most people I’ve worked with wish to remain.  As they become conscious during our coaching sessions of how they’re limiting their vision and options, they usually choose to find new ways to live and work-- with openness, aliveness, and the freedom of choice!

     If you want to create change that matters in your life and with your career, it’s clear that it helps to do so from a body-energy state that’s open to possibilities for movement in new directions.  That is, not from a perspective of a closed fist, but from that of hands waving free-- connecting to the whole body with effortless ease.

So I welcome you to join Bonnie Marie Kuhn and me for a wide-open discussion about coaching and “body-energy experiencing” on--

Tuesday, August 21st, 10 AM Pacific Time
CALL IN with your questions at 561/422-4365
Looking forward to connecting with you then!



In Celebration of my New Coaching Credential!

“The sort of coaching that fosters effective innovation and judgment, not merely the replication of technique, may not be so easy to cultivate. Yet modern society increasingly depends on ordinary people taking responsibility for doing extraordinary things: operating inside people’s bodies, teaching eighth graders algebraic concepts that Euclid would have struggled with, building a highway through a mountain, constructing a wireless computer network across a state, running a factory, reducing a city’s crime rate. In the absence of guidance, how many people can do such complex tasks at the level we require? With a diploma, a few will achieve sustained mastery; with a good coach, many could. We treat guidance for professionals as a luxury . . . But coaching may prove essential to the success of modern society.”

This quote from a recent issue of The New Yorker magazine in an article by Dr. Atul Gawande-- a surgeon who decided to try having a coach observe him in the operating room and make suggestions for improving his performance-- demonstrates the increasing presence in our world of coaching as a major learning tool and way of life. 

I’d like to welcome you to the world of coaching and invite you to celebrate its presence in our contemporary lives by trying it yourself at my special summer rate below. If you have friends and colleagues who want to make a change in their careers or the overall quality of their lives, this is a wonderful opportunity for them, too!

Join me in the world of coaching-- and make the changes that will open your lives to new possibilities and rewards!

                                        ∞ SPECIAL OFFER! ∞ 

             TO CELEBRATE MY NEW COACHING CREDENTIAL-- and to let you

             or someone you know who’s committed to making a career

             or life change now, I’m offering two summer specials (see below)

             that are 40% off my usual rates if you sign up with me by September 15th!

1)   MAKE THAT CHANGE NOW! - Two hours of coaching per month with email support between sessions. By phone, Skype, or in-office (El Cerrito, California, near Berkeley). Includes body-energy awareness techniques to enhance the coaching experience. $180.

2)   THE BODY-MIND COACHING PACKAGE! - Two hours of coaching per month with email support between sessions AND one hour of touch-based work with body-energy experiencing. [Note: the bodywork session is in-office.] $215.

             Yes, I want to sign up for Eve’s summer special coaching and/or body-energy experiencing rates!   This offer is good through September 15th. For a free consultation, please contact Eve at

Claiming Your Voice for Successful Action!

I’d like to share a post of mine below from July 7, 2010, that still goes to the heart of what I hear in many people concerning their desire for, and fear of, change. “What will I be asked to give up in exchange for moving forward?”  Some people fear the loss of approval of people they love; others, the steady income with which they financially support themselves and family; for others, it’s a loss of professional identity, of their selves that others recognize and admire.  What is the drive that makes people transcend the fear of such losses?  That’s the fascinating story behind all these quests.

      “In the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Little Mermaid, Ariel gives up her beautiful voice in exchange for legs . . . Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with change or variety or newness or with improving our condition.  The catch is when we are asked to give up our voice in order to move freely, when we are asked to silence what makes us unique in order to be successful.” (Mark Nepo)

      I was reading this passage and thinking of clients of mine whose concerns around being professionally successful are really issues about the loss of their voice and of speaking their truths.  I wondered, do you really have to give up your voice (the ability to speak your truth) in order to have legs (success and mobility in the world)?  That’s an odd condition, I feel, that you would have to exchange one for the other, when, in fact, you need both to make changes that are fulfilling to you.

      I’m thinking of one of my clients, a woman in her 50’s who was in a transition from stay-at-home mom to becoming a professional.  Her goals in coaching with me were all about becoming successful in her career.  Then during one session I commented on the lack of inflection and expressiveness in her voice.  I knew she was enthused about her new career direction, so what was this about? I asked her.  From this question came a surge of responses from deep within herself that she hadn’t expected, mostly reflecting the way she used to give and do for her family, without questioning what was important to herself.  When her youngest child finished high school, she allowed herself to go for a meaningful career, but still found herself giving time and energy to relationships that gave little back to her.

      She hadn’t recognized that while she was changing outwardly, she was also changing inwardly-- and that she needed to re-create the conditions of all of her life to move forward in her career path.  She needed to create boundaries in certain relationships and become more open in others.  She needed to use her voice to claim what mattered to her-- WHILE she used her legs to go forward professionally.  Now I can hear in her voice the enthusiasm and engagement she was experiencing in the work she has chosen.  She has brought her voice in alignment with her legs and her energy to living a full, rich life of her choice.

Facing the Fear of Change-- & Opening to Life!

For most of my adult life, personally and professionally, I’ve been exploring the phenomenon of change. As long as we live in a body on this planet we will be subject to the process of change-- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a number of us know from the runaway hormones of our teenage days, change that is unconscious, that takes us over, is tumultuous and makes us feel out of control. That kind of change leaves its imprint for many people in a desire to control all change, even to hold back from the inner promptings that try to tell us when we’ve outgrown a particular path and need to move on in a new direction.

Many of the people I’ve worked with as a career and life coach contacted me saying that they’d been feeling for some time that they needed to make a change in their jobs and the way they live. Some had had significant dreams, body signals (stress, pain, illness), and other signs (e.g., burnout at work) that the way things were was no longer purposeful for them. However, they resisted change because they were afraid of loss (of a job, a relationship, control) and the unknown.

Ram Dass-- a visionary explorer of change, loss, and re-emergence into authentic being-- writes in his book about awareness of change through aging, Still Here, that “without remaining open to change, we cannot remain open to life.” By diving into the deepest fears of many people in western cultures-- those of aging and dying-- he also opens ways for us to release our fears of moving out of old, constrictive patterns that tie us to ways of working, relating, and living that throttle our energy and diminish our well-being. As he relates about himself, being “thrown out of Harvard took away the secure professor role from my Ego . . . My creativity was released when the identity of Harvard professor was ripped away.”

A simple thing you can learn to do when you are on the brink of change, or in the midst of it, and struggling with your fears and your Gremlin (the part of you that doesn’t want you to change), is, as Ram Dass suggests, to “practice moment-to-moment Awareness by learning to do one thing at a time.” Taking a slow breath in that expands your entire rib cage and then letting it out allows you to savor being in the present moment. This experience opens your parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes your mind, your digestion, your breathing, and creates a calming center from which action that feels right to you can emerge.

Gradually, as you cultivate your awareness of just being in the moment, you realize that each action you take-- beginning with your breath-- simply leads you into the person you truly are. Conscious change begins to happen more effortlessly with less need to hang on to habitual ways of being that drain your energy. As your actions align with your authentic self, you move past your fears and your Gremlin with greater confidence into change that is positive and that matters to you.

Summer Time Out-- Re-Balancing Your Energy and Your Priorities

In last week’s blog post (8/11), I wrote about the value of breathing fully and expansively to create space in which to live fulfilled. This past weekend I felt what it was like to do this 24/7 during a stay at Tassajara-- a Zen Buddhist retreat center in a canyon in the Ventana Wilderness area near Carmel Valley, California. 

          Over the past twenty years, I’ve been here many times as a summer guest, and the arrival is always the same. As soon as I alight from the van ride of 90 minutes that carries us 14 miles down a bumpy dirt road, I step into the village where there are no cars and the predominant sound is the rush of water along the stones of the Tassajara Creek. I crane my head to watch the cliff wall at the entrance that goes up and up to the sky, and immediately feel my breathing relax and deepen, as if I’ve just released a 50-pound weight from my back.

          As Ed Brown, Zen teacher and former head cook at Tassajara, writes: “Guests traveling the long road find themselves remote and distant from the anxieties and turmoil of the daily grind. They can relax and let be, enjoy the sun and water, the swimming pool and swimming hole downstream, the hot baths upstream . . . No need here to do, to accomplish, to produce-- it is enough to walk, to read, to breathe easily and rest assured....”

          Actually, this isn’t a travel or spa guide. This is just a reflection of what it can be to rediscover your most open self in a world where, in general, the pressure is on to succeed at work, nurture your family and friendship circles, and manage all the competing demands of life on your time and energy. This time at Tassajara, I met several parents in their early 30’s there for the first time-- who for the first time in a year or two, had left their young children to have the experience of feeling again what it was to be fully in their own skins, eased of vigilance for others, nurtured by good people, good food, and the spirit of the place-- able to “breathe easily and rest assured.”

          Mmmm, I’m feeling my breathing flowing into my belly and back just writing about this time out that was really a time in-- to my true nature. Here’s the place I want to be, too, when I need to make decisions or move in a new and challenging direction-- relaxed like an open hand rather than tight and driven, like a fist. This is the image I hold within myself now when I need to re-balance my energy and my priorities.

          What is the place where your body and spirit open and allow you find the space to re-group and re-balance your energy and priorities?

Shifting Perspectives by Breathing-- Opening with Your Body to Possibilities!

Have you ever come out of an important meeting or some other challenging situation feeling mentally wound up, anxious, and tight in your chest? If you take a minute to check into your body, you will probably notice that your breathing is happening high up in your chest, forcing you to breathe in more rapidly, and giving you a sense of limitation and pressure. Physically and psychically, you’re being cut off from the energy and grounding you could otherwise have from the rest of your body.

          I’ve worked with people using somatic (body-energy awareness) healing and now coaching to help them shift from states of high anxiety and performance pressure into more relaxed and productive energy states. I’ve found that when you learn to shift the focus of your breathing from chest-bound to lungs-open, you can shift to ways of working and living that are more energized, grounded, and centered.  

          In shifting to a more open style of breathing, you also open yourself to higher levels of oxygen and energy, literally, that allow you to take action and engage with others (and your own inner consciousness). As Suzanne Zeman, Somatic Business Coach, notes in her great handbook, Listening to Bodies-- A Somatic Primer: “Keeping the bloodstream oxygenated calms the entire central nervous system, lowering production of the stress hormone cortisol by as much as 50 percent in 10 minutes.  So breathing deeply can help with . . . increasing available energy!”

          Here’s a practice for expanding the volume of oxygen and spaciousness in your body that only takes a few minutes to explore. Sit or stand comfortably and just notice the way you’re breathing. Where in your body is your breath flowing? Where is it stuck or not present? What feelings and thoughts are you experiencing? How do you feel about being with a group of people right now?

          Then let your breathing begin to fill your rib cage where your lungs are protected. Bring the fingertips of each of your hands into the softer, expandable spaces between the ribs on your right and left sides. Breathe into these spaces, filling them up like an accordion. Feel that you are expanding your breathing and energetic container in a way that may be totally unfamiliar to you. 

          You can also try bringing your hands to the ribcage in your back, and expand your lungs into your back.  Isn’t it amazing that there’s so much more room for breathing than you imagined? Now notice what you’re sensing in your whole body. What feelings and thoughts are you experiencing? How do you feel about interacting with others?

          This shift-in-breathing practice can help you become more aware of how you constrict yourself in your body by holding back your breath during uncomfortable work and other life situations, rather like continuing to wear a pair of shoes that are too tight. Then you’re able to change your breathing style to reflect a way of living that is more comfortable and expansive. With this change in breathing, you can literally think, plan, create, live in your body, and relate with others more effectively, energetically, and enjoyably!

Shaping Your Retirement-- Creating Structure to Live out Your Dreams

Retirement from work isn’t at the top of everybody’s mind, but one way or another, it will happen.  But when?  Under what circumstances?  And then what?  Are you retiring from one career path in mid-life and starting another?  Or are you older and considering ending your paid career in order to live in a very different way-- one that perhaps more fully realizes the dreams you have and the person you’ve become at this stage in your life?

This month I’ve worked with two people going through the process of retirement at the traditional time in their mid-60‘s.  Both of these people-- a man, George, and a woman, Pat-- have gone through their financial and insurance planning in preparation for the next step.  They recognize, though, that more is at stake than finances.  For them, this is a major life transition encompassing life purpose questions, concerns around aging and energy, and at the most basic level, the shape of one’s social and personal lives when an outer job structure is gone.

For George, the process of giving up his secure government job became easier as he spent some months in our coaching exploring his “artist and performer” self-- the part of him that was vibrant, colorful, and alive to the beauty of painting and photography.  He developed and led walking tours to highlight the art and architecture of city neighborhoods, photographing the tours, and creating a website to advertise them.  As his calling became clearer, he envisioned a way of life and a weekly structure to his time in retirement that gave 50% of the energy he’d put into his job into being the artist and performer he’d always longed to be.

Pat, on the other hand, had developed no particular vision of how she wanted to live in retirement.  She was ready to leave her corporate management position and felt she wanted time to explore cultural and volunteer possibilities in her community.  Within three months of leaving her job, Pat felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities she’d assumed in taking on two volunteer positions.  As an experienced manager, she’d naturally gravitated towards management positions, even as a volunteer, but with them came the claims on her time from which she had just decided to retire!

Exploring her feelings of overwhelm in coaching, she began to understand that she really needed some time and space to experience what it was like to have freedom from over-scheduling her life.  In order to do that, however, Pat realized that she needed to pull back on her volunteer time commitments, even if she felt insecure for awhile without the sense of structure they provided.  Paradoxically, her new structure needed to be more flexible and more open to feeling what was important to her before she could make new choices about what to do.

At any age and stage, retirement is a process, with new considerations about the quality and direction of life.  If you’re older (or very fortunate), and making money is no longer a criteria determining your choices, what would you want to do with your life? How would you like to feel during the day?  How much time, space, and energy do you need?  How will you claim that?

Japan and the Force of Nature-- Loss, Endings, and Remembrance

With all the chaos and upheavals going on in the world at this time, my heart and soul goes first to Japan, struck out of the blue by one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history and a tsunami hit of unimaginable proportions.  This is human life slammed into the pure force of oppositional nature.  This is beyond “transitions” and into the limit of human endurance.

With all the reverence for the diverse manifestations of nature in a limited island terrain, the Japanese have traditionally had a profound awareness of nature as a defining element in their lives.  In a volcanic region of earthquakes and threats from the sea, it’s easy to sense that life is precarious. 

Which brings up the question, “After catastrophic suffering, when all has been lost, what can we hold on to for remembrance and sanity?”  Once I read that the Japanese Zen Buddhist master, Suzuki Roshi, when asked, “What is Nirvana [enlightenment]?” replied, “Seeing one thing through to the end.” 

I live in earthquake country in California, and still I find it almost impossible to imagine what it would be to lose my family, my home, all my daily possessions, and my sense (however untrue) of basic security in a natural disaster of major proportions-- like the thousandsof people in northeastern coastal Japan recently.  Yet, I hope that something would illuminate deep inside me a sense of purpose in being there, even in themidst of such chaos and loss-- and would shine through me like a light, however wavering and flickering, guiding me through to the end..

When I was twelve, I lived with my family for a year in Tokyo-- a magical, transformative year that introduced me to an exotically other culture from that of suburban United States.  One difference that I could see even as a child was the way the Japanese people we met and came to know interacted with nature.  Unlike California where I grew up, Japan was so limited in space that personal gardens were small, sacred places, carefully tended, each stone, flower, and leaf having a place and a purpose.  Going away to the mountains, forest or ocean was often like going on pilgrimage, a re-connection rather than just recreation.

One way I stay connected with places and people I love and must leave is to find a stone for each experience of loving and interacting with these people, these places, that commemorates our time together.  Even if I had to leave these stones behind to flee for safety, they are gathered in my memory and will stay with me, lighting my path.

            What are ways you’ve discovered to honor heart connections in your life that you’ve had to leave behind?

Successful Transitions-- It’s Your Attitude That Counts!

Because I’m giving a presentation and a tele-class this month on career and life transitions, I’ve been particularly attuned to different aspects of how to go through the change process that I read about, see in films, and experience as a coach and in my own life.  This morning, I found a short article on the use of Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation classes for hard-core inmates of a maximum-security prison outside of Birmingham, Alabama-- and it made me consider again the role of attitude in creating successful transitions.

The William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility is yet another “overcrowded” American prison “with a reputation for mayhem” that brings together groups of “convicted killers, robbers and rapists” who close their eyes and “sit silently with their thoughts and consciences.”  For most of these inmates, this is the only training that they have ever received in self-control, social skills, and how to shift their attitude of constant rage at others to one of greater awareness and serenity.

How important is this for people who may be spending the rest of their lives in jail?  For these people, learning to create a shift in their personal attitude towards their situation may well be their only way out of the despair of lives gone out of control.  One convicted murderer who “radiates calm” says that this meditation course and practice helped him “accept responsibility for his crime and find inner peace.”  He considers himself “the luckiest man in the world” to have ended up in a prison where he was given the opportunity to change his whole perspective on life and his role in it.

So how important is developing inner awareness for those of us fortunate enough to be out in the world with more freedom to make choices?  Often, a successful career or other life transition depends on your choosing a perspective to live with that gives light and meaning to your new direction.  You may possibly not get the job you most wanted, but staying open to the possibilities of another one that you do get can bring unexpected rewards, such as new learning and new directions you might not have dreamed of.  Or you may meet someone who helps change your life.  It is how you embrace every possible opening that allows you to work and live with the confidence that you are on the right path for you!

Satisfaction in Action-- Slow Down and Feel the Sunshine!

I was struck the other day by something I read in a New York Times obituary of Joan Sutherland, the luminous singer of Italian bel canto opera.  She not only had a powerful voice of incredible range, she achieved great dramatic intensity in part by giving equal attention to each note of an aria, singing each one fully.  She didn’t gloss over them in an effort to make something happen.  She savored each note, and in doing so, brought her audience with her into a deep, timeless place of incomparable beauty.

             In the work I do as a coach-- guiding people to make choices that will let them move in the direction they really want to go-- I’m informed by my many years of work as a body therapist to help them slow down and pay attention, with each step forward, to what they’re feeling in their bodies and their spirit.  The process of change is so much more than making leaps from here to there.  It’s about the way your whole being is involved in feeling, learning, expressing, and connecting with what is real and true for you. 

             You can easily enter into this experience by closing your eyes and envisioning a change that you’d like to make in your work or any other part of your life.  Notice what happens to your breathing, whether it gets faster or almost shuts down as you take in the implications of really making a meaningful change.  Notice whether there’s any tension or opening in your belly, your chest, your throat, your neck, or behind your eyes.   What are the messages from your body that feel connected to your vision of change?  What is the level of energy you’re feeling now? 

            It’s really quite amazing how much useful information you can sense about a decision you need to take or a change you want to make by taking time to go deeper into yourself during a time of transition-- rather than just running forward.  In fact, time expands and opens possibilities for you when you stop rushing and pay attention to what’s inside you, to the sound of each note resonating, and to the feel of sunshine on your shoulder.  When you really feel the depth of what you’re wanting for yourself, then you know, with confidence and clarity, what you have to do-- and the way opens before you with astounding ease.  Then the actions you take will lead you to much greater career and life satisfaction.

                         Join in the Discussion!

 • When have you stopped running forward and let yourself experience inside the feeling of making a change? 

• What is it to slow down?  What are you afraid will happen to your life if you do?  What has been a positive experience you’ve had in slowing down?

• What has been a deeply satisfying change you’ve consciously made in your life?  Why was this change so satisfying?