Friends, coaching clients/fellow colleagues on this path of conquering your mind and creating your life –

I have been in the Middle East for one week now.

Seems like a month. So many impressions, a complete cultural shift. Again.

This week was about setting up a routine here and talking to you.

That was it.

And today it is the weekend.

Friday and Saturday are the weekend here.

The workweek starts on Sundays.

As the call to pray rings out five times a day, so beautifully over the city, it reminds me – every time (and in my case irrespective of belief systems followed) to pause and reflect.

Think about how many times you may have chosen too quickly in life; your mate, your education, your work, your place to live – and when you saw that it was not the right path for you, the amount of clean up was immense (divorce, going back to school for an entire new vocation, etc.)

Hearing the call to prayer while here in Jordan is having me pause for a moment, all five times of the day starting early, early in the morning, and remember to think thoroughly and deeply about what I want to do and how I want to conduct myself. Not even for my whole life, but just for this day. Since life is only days going by, each one counts.

On a general level, this shows us all that we are almost never fully present. Right now, I am thoroughly enjoying the reminder I get five times a day to stop and reflect, perhaps meditate or check in with myself that I am conducting my day in accordance with my values and how I want to run my life. After the summer, when I am no longer here to enjoy these lovely reminders, I will have to set the alarm to the same five times – just to remember to come back to the present moment – just to remember that every thought, word and action is governed by the law of cause and effect. That I will reap what I sow. I want the harvest to be good so I want to remember to sow good seeds. And for those of you who are having a bad harvest right now, it can all be reversed, I promise. Start now. Set your alarm.


Coach Jo

Start-of-the-Week-Pick-You-Up: Sacred Space

It is Monday.

How many of you thought about setting yourself up with sacred space?

To start the day off right – and the week.

In my life, as long as I can remember, I have been fortunate to do this intuitively. There was always a ritual before I started my work; my environment around me (uncluttered), myself (clean and meditated), my nourishment (food, water), comfort (a good chair, natural light/good lighting, noise level adjusted or eliminated)…

Sounds like a lot of work, but I couldn’t produce good work unless I had that foundation. Each person has their own ritual (to invent) to create sacred space.

Here is what (god/guru) Joseph Campbell says about it:

“[Sacred space] is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

There is a wonderful book by photographer Jill Clementz, wife of late writer Kurt Vonnegut, called “The Writer’s Desk”. In it, she captures the rituals of famous writers – their ways of setting up sacred space to start their work. Check it out. It will inspire you.

“Far from a mystical idea, this is something that many artists and writers have put into practice by way of their peculiar workspace rituals.”

Also check out:

“Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors”, by C.B Johnson

You don’t have to be a quirky writer to create sacred space.

Just a quirky human with something to say.


Coach Jo



“In yoga philosophy, much like in the 10 commandments in Christianity, there are “do’s” (yamas), and “don’ts” (niyamas) to adhere to in yoga as well.

Often it is much easier to do something than refrain from something.  I’ve gotten bent out a shape more than once by hearing the phrase, “Happiness is a choice.” In the moment, I want to say, “it is not a (expletive) choice!  Because when you are unhappy you are (expletive) unhappy! So don’t come telling me it’s a choice, alright?” (Nice amount of aggression, there, wasn’t it…? 🙂

The things that are upsetting usually have some inconvenient truth to them.      In this case, it is being faced with an addiction. Mostly our addictive thinking that also leads to addictive actions such as over eating, spending or drinking….

It’s the seemingly unavoidable urge to obsess about the one negative thing that hit us in a day. One hundred positive things happened too – but we don’t see them for that one hurtful remark or bad review.  “Tapas” in the “niyamas” refers to “heat” – both physical and spiritual, as in turning up the heat on ourselves and burning away our inpurities.  We practice yoga asana practice to train our bodies, and spiritual disciplines to train our minds.  Some every day phrases that relate to disciplining our thoughts (and therefore whether to think happy or unhappy thoughts) are:

“Don’t go there.”

“There is no cheese in that tunnel.”

“Stop while you are ahead.”

“Your mind is a dark neighborhood.”

We can start by changing our minds about small nuisances. Here is an example. A lot of my family and friends just went skiing because it is the last chance to do so for the year. My mind started to chatter; “I didn’t take my kids skiing.  Should I have?  Will they be all upset when they hear others went and they didn’t?  The young ones won’t know but the 5-year old?  He has never gone. What kind of parent am I?  He should have been in ski school by age 3!!”  Can you hear it? That’s the dark tunnel as referred to above. The only choice I could make to take me back to a happy place was to take my mind somewhere else, to a happy and more open spot.  By choice.

“We didn’t ski, but we went to tons of museums during the break.  And they saw things they had never seen before. And the older one went biking with his dad – super special daddy-son time. And being in a new place, there were tons of new playgrounds to explore and friends to meet. Plus, we already have plans to go skiing next year, so all is well. There is nothing wrong here.”

Without trying to sweep things under the carpet, or justifying, or telling ourselves things are good when they really aren’t, this is simply a way of taking the facts and highlighting those that create happiness.  The facts mind you

– not whatever we’d like to hear ourselves say to make ourselves feel better.

I would so like your take on this.  You have probably already noticed that there are some very predictable places your mind goes when you get upset or anxious…what are they?  Do you know?  I love when I can spot one, and then the next one, and the next one, like, “I know you little bugger, come here and I will squash you (although I wouldn’t – but metaphorically speaking -) like a bug!”


Coach Jo

Johanna Sawalha

Private and Executive Coach





END OF WEEK WRAP: On Overwhelm

END OF WEEK WRAP: On Overwhelm

Last week, I spoke about how to prioritize the pile of stuff/your to-do list that seems never ending. This week I want to talk about overwhelm. The kind that leaves you stuck in your tracks, paralyzed, procrastinating, a blind avoiding of doing anything at all…

It’s been a month since my move to Sweden and only yesterday did I make the phone call to BVC (Barnavårdscentralen – the agency for pediatric care). For a whole month I have felt like “bad mommy”, not dealing with this right as I got here. Not that my children would have been denied acute care should they have needed it, but f’gadssake, they need a pediatrician! If I had waited any longer, they’d be in high school by the time they got weighed and measured again…

Why did I wait? I only just got it to it because I felt overwhelmed by other things that needed to be done. So what then is overwhelm?

A feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign that you are being a self-inflicted taskmaster – of yourself. There is all kinds of help at your disposal; trading tasks with a friend, delegating, cooking a great meal to share with your mom if she makes the calls for you. …

As you begin to loosen up around what you need to get done people show up to help, creative ideas flood your mind of how to solve the next task and the best things of all – everything feels lighter. The natural unfolding of things, where you are dealing with the things in the present and dealing with the people around youbeing present – that is when the “to do’s” of your life fold into your journey and eventually reads like the story of your great life…

I’d rather live my life that way, then go “check-check-check…” on my to do list – wouldn’t you…?



Heuristics – The Task/Time/Problem Solver

Beginning of Week Kick Off (In Lieu of End of Week last week):Heuristics – The Task/Time/Problem Solver:

Having landed my family and myself in a new life, I am viewing a pile of to do’s that are not “knock/out/able”.. .

Not in a day, week, month or even a year. And the tasks are ALL important – from keeping up with my US and international business matters, to finding my kids a new pediatrician…

Today, this week, and for a foreseeable time ahead, I am applying heuristics with new zest. Heuristics are rules you use to solve problems. A guideline you follow – and when you do, insurmountable tasks fall in line…

Here are a few I have learnt – and a few I thought I came up with myself:

1) Start with the most difficult things when you are most fresh.

That for most people is first thing in the morning.

If you wait (procrastinate) till the afternoon when you already have burnt your cycles for the day, they will take twice the time to complete.

2) Make piles of similar tasks and complete them all at the same time; calls, emails, scheduling. Research shows that it takes 20 minutes to reset when you start a new task, so if you jump from task to task in a rapid manner, you will never fully land in deep concentration in any…

3) Look critically at what you DON’T have to do. If you can be spared but it has to be done, give it to someone else. If it doesn’t have to be done, get rid of it immediately. It’s amazing how much we think has to be done that really doesn’t. Clearing breathing paths and stopping a blood let is about the only two things that you have to do. The rest is on a scale of somewhat important to not at all…

Do share your best heuristics…(and let me know if you do not want me to share it as my inclination will be to…)..


Coach Jo

End of week wrap: Gilla Läget

End of week wrap: Gilla Läget

“…letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is—working with it rather than struggling against it.”

—Pema Chodron

In Sweden there is this saying called “gilla läget”.

It basically means to go with it, let go of resistance, relax and float downstream.

Translated exactly it says, “like things they way that they are”…now…

People say it when they are in an undesirable situation or perhaps impatient while they are waiting for something they want to have happen…

I personally love this saying – AND I can have such a hard time doing it…

Just letting things be the way they are. I am in the business of defying all odds, shaping your destiny, and designing your life.

I have decided, however, that I can still stand for all those things at the same time as I go ahead and “gilla läget”. Leave things alone the way they are, because how could they be any other way…?

Love always,

Johanna Sawalha

Private and Executive Coach


+46 73-589 86 48 – mobile

917.509.1549 – cell

914.233.3795 – work

815.572.8834 – fax




So I have moved to Europe

Some of you have shown concerned with me being so far away…
Let me tell you how I see it and why is no big deal…

Before I had a million gazillion children, I travelled extensively all over the world and stayed in different countries for an extended period of time. All the way through I ran my business as usual due to the fact that with 8 out of 10 with y’all I am virtual.
And the other 20% of you are delving into the amazing world of virtual technology in order to connect (Google chat, Skype, iMessage, What’s App, etc., etc., etc.)…
I am exited to start this new adventure with you…I can assure you only good will come of the new things we will learn together – as well as the opportunity to at any time come and visit!


Coach Jo

  1. Below you will see various blogs on how small the world has become, by anyone from MIT to more ethereal/philosophical writers…





COACH JO: Series on Joy – Installment 4/10

Series on Joy – Installment 4/10

In Buddhism there is a saying.

“Abandon all hope of fruition.”

How depressing you may say. What it really means is – appreciate the journey. Take joy in every moment. Savor it. Show up. Be there for it.We also know how short lived a moment of fruition is. Meaning, the moment we reach a goal we have been working towards, how long does the excitement last? A day? If we are lucky, a few? And what do we do next? Hanker for the next thing.

Abandoning all hope fruition is actually then a true gift.We get to live the abundance of all the days of our lives.Not just the days when we win. When we get what we want.We are adorable, cute and funny we humans.

You know when you look down on an ant pile… those ants seem so busy, and arevery serious about moving a stick from point A to point B. We must look very similar from a bird’s eyes view.

Bottom line of the installment this week – slow down and turn your attention on high to all the natural phenomena around you.

What do you notice that you otherwise wouldn’t…?


Coach Jo

On Regrets

I hung out with someone yesterday who reads my blog .

She made a suggestion for a topic she’d like to see .

How to deal with regrets ?

The stuff you have done that haunts you at night.
The I-could’vs and I-should’vs.

Well.  What if you couldn’t have done it any other way?
Based on the information you had at the time.

That is what life experience is.
And what if it had to irk you so badly so that you’ll never do it again.

Maybe there is a design to regrets?
To make you do something with them.
To really, really learn the lesson for the next time.

But listen up.
Not as a way to “teach yourself a lesson”.

Rather knowing that you can’t skip a grade.
That you can’t skip the lessons that are specifically for you.

So when you regret something, repeat to yourself:

“This is the school of life.

I am only learning.
That is why I am here.
It is the whole point of it all.”

Comments, questions – all welcome.

Love always,