Ki Moments Blog

Support for life’s “key” moments.

  • October 10, 2017

    Center As You Enter: Creating Centering Practices That Stick

    Center As You Enter: Creating Centering Practices That Stick

    I open my eyes. Morning.

    Quiet time. Meditation.

    I  relish this moment. Yes, there is much to do. The difficult conversation ahead. The pile of work sitting on my desk and on my mind. The emails to return. The seminar to design. Do I have time?

    Yes. I will make time. I will sit quietly and do nothing. Nothing except to notice the breath coming in and going out of my body. The thoughts, the physical awareness, the birds chirping outside my window. All coming and going, like the breath.

    Wendy Palmer, a teacher of aikido and leadership presence categorizes the many ways to practice centering into three areas: committed practice, ritual practice, and spontaneous practice.

  • September 26, 2017

    The Language of Centering

    The Language of Centering

    The driver cut me off without warning. We almost collided. My pulse accelerated, my adrenaline pumped, my anger went from 0 to 60 in less than a second.

    I breathe in, exhale, and choose to center. At first I'm only about 20 percent centered. I keep breathing. 30%. I think: what rational explanation would allow for that driver to do what he did? 40%. More breathing. 50%. Smile to myself--everything’s okay. No damage done. 75%. It’s over, without me doing anything I’ll regret later. Life is good. 100%.

    The language and practice of centering is one in which some people are fairly fluent. Yet even those who understand the concept are often unsure exactly how to get there on purpose.

  • September 12, 2017

    The Secret Ingredient in Difficult Conversations: Acknowledgment

    The Secret Ingredient in Difficult Conversations: Acknowledgment


    I'm writing a new book about how to manage and resolve employee confict. One of the key ingredients in working with conflict and possibly the most underutilized communication skill is acknowledgment. Acknowledgment is the secret to turning difficult conversations around.

    Because it demonstrates a willingness and ability to reflect back a view or thought process that is different and possibly in opposition to your own, acknowledgment makes a powerful statement. It says, “I heard you, I’m trying to understand, and this is the meaning I’m making out of what I heard.” It shows respect and a disposition toward resolution....

  • August 28, 2017

    Centered in Center Field

    Centered in Center Field


    When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the pioneer of positive psychology, writes about the "flow" state, he describes it as a quality of being, with certain traits:

    • Challenges are higher than average.
    • Skills are higher than average.
    • You're doing what you really like to do and are completely involved.
    • You have clarity; you know what needs to be done and how well you're doing.
    • A feeling of serenity; going beyond the bounds of the ego.
    • Timelessness; totally focused on the present; time disappears.

    This pretty much describes how it was on July 31, New Hampshire Day at Fenway Park, when I was invited to sing the National Anthem at a Boston Red Sox game. I was honored to be in this position. And I knew it was going to be a test of sorts and an opportunity to practice what I teach....

  • August 15, 2017

    Time Management is Self Management

    Time Management is Self Management


    When I think about time management I smile. Time is what it is. What we manage is ourselves. Time management is self-management, energy management. If I only have so much energy, where do I focus it? So this is really a conversation about Purpose.

    In Aikido, we have a free-style sparring practice called "randori," in which the student stands alone on the practice mat and as many as five opponents attack simultaneously. The term literally means "chaos taking." The workplace—and life—can feel like this. Which task, event, or relationship do I take on first? How do I manage the chaos?

    The first secret of randori is to handle one adversary at a time....

  • August 1, 2017

    Giving Advice: Help or Hindrance?

    Giving Advice: Help or Hindrance?


    I received an email recently from a gentleman asking for my help, saying he wanted to be less judgmental and more sensitive to friends and family. He explained that he was in a close, loving relationship, and that his lack of awareness sometimes creates stress.

    In a recent conversation, for example, his partner pointed out that when he gives her advice and uses the word "you," she tends to become defensive. He says he wants to help his partner solve problems, and he thinks of his suggestions as brainstorming, even though she hasn't necessarily asked for advice. 

    In my reply email, I thought hard about non-judgment, advice, and the willingness to change. I hope these tips make your day a little easier, too....

    I thanked him for his inquiry and emailed back a few thoughts. I appreciate his quest for knowledge, and he clearly has a dedicated partner on his side--someone who cares enough to advocate for what she needs. With his growing awareness and her willingness to offer feedback on how his genuinely positive intention is affecting her in not so positive ways, they'll learn a lot from each other.

  • July 18, 2017

    Practice Deep Breathing

    Practice Deep Breathing


    I saw an article recently titled "Rise Above Your Awful Commute" about how to stay calm in the midst of traffic jams, rapid transit delays, commuter rail breakdowns and other similar challenges of getting where you want to go on time. The article encouraged strategies to be productive, lower tension in crowded places, and calm yourself during the commute as well as ways to shake off the effects once you arrive at your destination, such as:

    • Download and listen to calming music, audio or e-book.
    • Take a walk around the block before going to your desk.
    • Think about an inspiring person, story, or value you hold.
    • Spend a few minutes in a setting with natural light, vegetation or similar calming attributes.

    What stuck with me most: practice deep breathing...

  • July 4, 2017

    Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

    Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

    I was a grouch yesterday morning. Not sure why, but I arrived at the pool noticing all the things that were wrong--Why is everybody so noisy today? She never turns the shower off! Oh, that swimmer practically ran me over!

    Luckily (!) I noticed and centered myself. As I've often written in these posts, centering doesn't always make me a nicer person or make difficult emotions go away, but it does show me I have a choice in this moment about how I respond.

    When I centered myself, I could see that I was the one who needed to change. And I decided to smile. At myself. Then I decided to smile just because it's a lot more fun than the alternative. And then I decided to appreciate what I could about the day, the water, the weather, the people, and whatever else I could find.

  • June 20, 2017

    Coming to Center: An Aikido Guidebook for Managers with Employees in Conflict

    Coming to Center: An Aikido Guidebook for Managers with Employees in Conflict


    When you have two individuals at odds, and each is valuable to the organization, knowledgeable, experienced, and compatible with everyone but each other, what do you do?

    I'm in the process of writing a new book: Coming To Center, An Aikido Guidebook for Managers with Employees in Conflict.

    The book illustrates a four-phase model I use when I'm invited to coach employees who are in conflict with each other and can't find their way out.

    If this has happened in your team or organization, you may have tried:

    • The pep talkCome on, now, you can do this. Rise above it.
    • The appeal to compassion and empathyTry not to take things so personally; see things from their perspective.
    • The common-sense approachYour work is suffering. Something has to change. You don't have to be best friends, but you do have to work together and get the job done.

    You may have also tried evading, ignoring, and hoping the situation will resolve itself. You’ve probably brought the topic up at performance reviews and talked to colleagues, coaches, and consultants. And yet the problem persists.

  • June 6, 2017

    What Aikido Can Teach Us About Learning Plateaus

    What Aikido Can Teach Us About Learning Plateaus

    The achievement of goals is important. But the real juice of life, whether it be sweet or bitter, is to be found not nearly so much in the products of our efforts as in the process of living itself, in how it feels to be alive.
    ~George Leonard

    I receive many thoughtful responses to my monthly posts. Recently an Aikidoist from Canberra Australia, James Samana, emailed me some late night reflections on his Aikido journey. 

    James is a black belt in Aikido and works for the Australian Public Service as an executive coach, course designer and facilitator. I couldn't help extending his Aikido experience to the way we practice, learn, and attain mastery in any endeavor, including the mastery of conflict and communication--if that indeed ever happens.

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