Search Results for: open focus

Open Focus Results #1: High Shoulders with Pain

As a certified Open Focus coach (COFC), I’m prevented from making claims for open focus sessions.  I’m not licensed to treat anything, and can’t claim to have done so.  Which is fine with me.  Instead, I will share what I see and hear from the people I work with.  Like today’s session.

An orchestral musician presented with tension and pain in the right upper arm, neck and shoulder.  As we were on Zoom, I could see the shoulder elevation, and infer the tension.  I could also see pinched features and lines around their eyes and mouth.

I aimed the session at maintaining a narrow focus while simultaneously connecting to space in a diffuse, broad way, which is what musician’s must do:  You can’t stop being narrowly focused on the instrument you’re playing, and at the same time you must also take in other musicians, the conductor, and the balance of sound in the room.  If you are using narrow, objective focus to switch between these views, you will tense up and that will affect the sound you are producing.  What’s needed is a simultaneous attention that shifts effortlessly as the need arises, but never loses touch with all these elements.

The only way to do this while staying relaxed is to open your focus.  It’s the easy and effortless way to pay attention to several things without being too narrowly focused on any one thing.  We went back and forth from the space in the body to the space in the room (narrow, diffuse, narrow, diffuse), and when we both opened our eyes 30 minutes later, the hunched shoulders were now sloping away from the neck and the eyes were sparkling in a relaxed face.  As we processed the session, their shoulders fell even more.  It was wild to see.

I love this work!  I love seeing the results and hearing “Wow,” after a session, which is the response I hear most often.  It’s feels like a miracle.  It isn’t, of course – it’s just me helping someone use their brain and nervous system the way it was designed:  Changing how you pay attention changes your brainwave pattern which changes your physiology.  That’s how we are designed.

Open Focus Friday

Open Focus Friday!

Changing HOW you pay attention – without changing anything else – changes your brainwaves which changes your physiology.  That’s the discovery of neurofeedback pioneer Les Fehmi, PhD.  Most of us overuse narrow focus or “emergency mode,” and suffer physical effects such as tension and pain.  Dr. Fehmi described several modes of paying attention and created a method for shifting the whole brain from a beta brainwave pattern (emergency mode) to the beneficial and healing alpha pattern with its relaxed alertness.

And you can do it anywhere, anytime, with immediate effects.  The more you practice it, the easier it is to break the habit of a narrow, emergency mode of attention and unwind all that tension and pain.  So let’s practice!

Every Friday from 12:00 noon to 12:50, Pacific time, I’ll answer questions and lead an open focus session tailored to the participants on the zoom call.

  • I’ll send out audios of each session that you can download for use throughout the week (Keep scrolling for free audios).
  • In between zoom calls, I’m available to answer questions that come up as you practice, so you can make Open Focus the way you pay attention all the time.
  • You’ll also get access to a password-protected page where you can post your comments

Cost:   The first session is always free. Thereafter, it’s $25.00 a session.   You can also buy a package of 12 at a reduced rate of $20.00 per session. These session are ongoing and you can drop in anytime.

Get in touch if you’d like to join us or want to know more.

I blog about recent OF sessions here.

Free Open Focus Audios

Please enjoy these free OF sessions.  Be prepared to sit comfortably with your eyes closed for the time indicated.

OF – Space and Silence (25 mins)

OF – Dissolving Pain (30 mins)

OF – Between (22 mins)

OF – Between – short (13 mins)

Open Focus

Are you stuck in emergency mode?

Is everything urgent, taking more energy and giving less reward?  Are you feeling burned out, stressed out, not quite yourself?  Would you like to move beyond resilience into enjoying your day?  Open Focus is a way of paying attention that melts tension.  It’s a simple technique that you can use anywhere, anytime.

Neurofeedback pioneer, Les Fehmi, PhD, hacked the mind-body connection and discovered a simple mechanism:

How we pay attention matters more that what we pay attention to

Changing HOW you pay attention shifts your brainwave pattern, and your brainwave pattern affects your physical response.  That’s how the mind-body connection works.  When you use Open Focus to shift your attention from narrow to broad focus, your brain shifts from a beta pattern (tense alertness, stress hormones, emergency mode) to an alpha pattern (relaxed attention), which changes our physical response from tense to relaxed.  It’s how I’ve been dealing with the epic stress of the Covid pandemic.  I was so impressed with it, I became a certified Open Focus Coach.  And it’s how I’ve been helping clients deal with theirs. They’ve been saying things like: “Oh, that IS better!  I can feel myself relaxing.”  “I feel like I just got a massage, inside.” “I feel completely stoned.”  “This makes such a difference.”

It’s effects are immediate and increase as opening your focus becomes your new habit.  If you have a mindfulness practice, Open Focus will add to its effectiveness.  If you meditate, but aren’t seeing the results you’d hoped for, Open Focus will change that.

Give it a try

    • As you’re reading this page:  You can use it right now.  As you read this page, include your peripheral vision in your awareness. Effortlessly notice the white space around the words, the borders of the device you’re reading it on and what is beyond those borders, like the wall in front of you or the person next to you.  Just let what is in the space around you be in your awareness.

Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing…

“Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing…

…there’s a field.  I’ll meet you there.”  Maybe you know this quote from Rumi, the mystical Sufi poet whose popularity continues unabated centuries after his death.  It has so much to teach us about collaboration, especially the kind we must find in ourselves before we can connect with anyone or anything else.  But what does it have to do with the game of golf?  And is golf a game or a metaphor for life?

2.5 minute read

We were watching The Legend of Bagger Vance last night, a movie ostensibly about golf.  But even golf isn’t really about golf, but about the state you must be in to connect with that tiny ball  and knock it into space through a complex synchrony of muscles and nerves that can be thrown off by the slightest distraction, tension or worry.  The whole business can be thrown out of whack by wanting something too much, like wanting to win, which is a tricky thing when you’re competing or when you think you are.

“You can’t win the game, you can only play it” says mystical wisdom figure and caddy, Bagger Vance, to troubled golfer, Rannulf Junuh, and later “It’s time.  It’s time for you to get into the field.”

There’s it is again – that magical, elusive field, where we can meet each other without barriers that separate, where we can connect with all of ourselves and something bigger than us.

The movie was a little short on the “how” of getting into the field and letting the field get into you – the immersed synchronous state that has you connected to the whole and playing with your whole heart and mind rather than striving to win with a tiny part of you.  It’s not your grip or your elbow or any one element of your swing.  It’s bigger than that, bigger than you, and somewhat elusive.  It has to do with the way you pay attention. 

In the field, you’re relaxed and plugged in.  You’re one with your surroundings, fluid, trusting, open.  You can bring all of yourself and that in itself is so beautiful.  You can’t control the outcome, but you can invite this pure presence and deep satisfaction of playing the game with all of you.

“You can’t get enough of what you don’t really want,” is a quote that’s guided me all my life,  because it says you can get enough of what you really want.

A few years ago, when I was in Oklahoma visiting family, my cousin unlocked the door to her “safe room,” a feature of houses in “Tornado Alley.”  Bolted to the foundation, these rooms are designed to survive a tornado.  She handed me a black sharpie. “We ask people important to us to write a quote on our safe room wall.  I’ll leave you to it.”  I looked around.  Instead of the usual radio or TV and a place to sit out a tornado watch, this safe room had two floor-to-ceiling shelving units crammed with guns in cases and boxes and boxes of ammunition.  The walls were covered with Bible verses about God’s love and salvation through Jesus. 

I stood there gobsmacked, pen in hand.  When my brain started working again, I considered a Bible quote, maybe something fiery and confrontive from Proverbs, or something exhortative from First Corinthians 13, ending with “…the greatest of these is love.”  And then I closed my eyes and reached for the field beyond right and wrong, beyond winning and losing, beyond threat and retaliation.  I opened my focus and waited for a way to bring all of myself to the situation:  Not just the anger and the fear, but the kindness, the longing, the hope, and the love.  I uncapped the marker and begin to write the words I could write with all my heart, those of a Sufi mystic long dead:  “Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”


We are having a marvelous time on Open Focus Friday calls at noon, Pacific time.  After a quick chat about how effortlessly finding our way into the field of Open Focus is going, I lead a 20-30 minute open focus practice, and we end with feedback so I can make next Friday’s session even better.   It’s already pretty fabulous, but it would be even better if you were there.

I’m also doing both individual sessions when requested as well as offering more affordable small group sessions for you and a few friends or colleagues.

The Art of the Pause

The Art of the Pause

2.5 minute read

In every workshop it was the same:  Some could incorporate the skills immediately. Some could not, no matter how hard they tried.   Then, weeks after the class, I’d get an email like this:  “OMG, Liz – it WORKED!  I paused and then I (insert skill here) and it totally WORKED.”  Which lead to the question I’ve been asking myself ever since:  Was it the skill or the pause that made the difference?

Until recently, I thought it was the pause. 

I wasn’t good at pausing.  I liked going fast and having rapid-fire conversations.  It was fun.   Except for the times when I could see a response die on someone’s lips, and by the time I’d reined myself in, the moment had passed.  Or the times I said yes when I wanted to say no and was left with an obligation I dreaded.  Or the times I got overwhelmed with what I’d taken on, and couldn’t pause long enough to realize I could ask for help.  Those were the opposite of fun.

When it first became safe in 2020 to get together with friends, we sat together in silence, spoke slowly, and felt our way with each other.  Our time together felt precious to me, vulnerable and rich with meaning.  Gone was the need to fill silences with chatter, however strained or inane.  We paused, then slowly talked about what was underneath, how we were, what we were feeling, which to a person was vulnerable.

I’m allergic to vulnerable.  Deeply allergic.  Epi-pen allergic. I can do surface vulnerable, but there is a vault with a thick steel door even I don’t open. Covid was a master class in vulnerability, and I did not like the homework. I did it anyway:  Embracing the pause instead of my usual speedy responses, and withstanding the waves of vulnerability that resulted.   I was able to admit I didn’t know how, because no one knew how.  I could accept the inevitable mistakes and feeling of powerlessness because we were all experiencing that.

I think vulnerability gives the pause its power.  That it’s not the pause that makes the difference, but the vulnerability that precedes it. The pause happens naturally when you are comfortable not knowing, not being in charge, willing to be wrong and doing it anyway.

When the toll of not knowing started coming out of my hide, I paused and asked for help.  It choked me at first, but slowly – very slowly – it’s getting easier to ask for and to receive help.   I started seeing how my refusal to be helped confused people who were freely offering or who wanted to.  Now I’m catching myself when I’m about to spend countless hours trying to figure out something I could simply ask for help with.

Vulnerability (achoo!) and the pause make it possible to say no.  Recently someone I don’t enjoy working with proposed working together again.   I was about to type “Sure, we can talk” I paused and took the time to ask myself “What do Iwant?”  The answer was clear and immediate:  Not this.  The polite “no, Thank you” email practically wrote itself.  A few days later, I was given an opportunity that wasn’t right for me, and my automatic response was “why not help out?” I paused and asked myself “what do I want?”  “Not this” was again the answer.

I thought it opening the vault would be the end of me, but it’s feeling more like the beginning. I hope you’ll take a moment to pause and ask yourself:  “what do I want?”


OPEN FOCUS FRIDAY meets weekly at noon, Pacific Time.  Drop in anytime, pay as you go or buy a package at a discount. Details and a sign-up are here.  Open Focus is a simple practice you can do anywhere that helps you stay relaxed, open and connected, even in the midst of stress. Open Focus enables the pause.

OFF thank you page

Thank you for registering for Open Focus Fridays!  I’m thrilled that you’ll be joining us.

Look for the email that asks you to confirm your subscription.  If it doesn’t show up, please email me: and I’ll sort it out.

Warm Regards,

Beyond Resilience – Staying Out of Emergency Mode

Possibly you’re one of the people who are happily sailing through the toxic sludge of Covid pandemic and ill political winds that continue to blow. If so, I commend you. I am not one of those people.  The last several years took me down to my studs.  Not that all that time I spent stretched out on the couch was wasted though:  Oh no!  I was diligently looking for a way to come at the challenges of life differently.  I was tired of picking myself up and getting back in a race I no longer believed in, tired of all the ways I knew to recover.  I didn’t want to be more resilient, or to bounce back more quickly.  I wanted to stop bouncing.  And I really, really wanted to end the chronic pain I’ve been in for decades.

So when my physical therapist suggested I read a textbook for PT’s on pain, I thought, why not?  “Of the six causes of pain, only one is the original injury,” she said in a quiet voice.  “The others are…well, you’ll see.”

Put simply, my sensitive nervous system hadn’t gotten out of emergency mode in decades.  I’d been so tense for so long, I’d forgotten what relaxed felt like.  So I started digging and experimenting with ways to calm an overly-sensitized nervous system and found two: a vagus nerve exercise (keep reading) and a way of paying attention called Open Focus**. I want to share them both with you.

Open Focus is a simple technique that immediately shifts and your body from emergency mode to relaxed alertness. 

When you change HOW you pay attention from a narrow focus to one that is broad and immersed, your brainwaves shift into a lower frequency called alpha.  Alpha brainwaves unwind the effects of emergency mode, relaxing your muscles and letting stress hormones drain away.  It really is this simple:

How we pay attention matters more than what we pay attention to   

And it’s easy to learn and to do at any point in your day.  These are the kind of comments I’ve been hearing from my clients: “Oh, that IS better!  I can feel myself relaxing.”  “I feel like I just got a massage, inside.” “I feel completely stoned.”  “This makes such a difference.”  My own pain level went from a constant drone to a rare event that fades quickly.

Click here for a 25-minute Open Focus session you can try.

And, here’s the three no-cost sessions I’m doing this month.   Bring a friend, family member, or co-worker.


==> Please join me for three no-cost Open Focus sessions:

December 3, 10 and 17, 2021.  Fridays at noon Pacific Time for 50 minutes

==> Contact me to sign up and I’ll send you the Zoom link, and the audio recording afterwards.


The Vagus Nerve Exercise

This is from bodyworker Stanley Rosenberg’s book, Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve. I do this, first thing every morning.  I do it again if I’m having trouble going to sleep:  Lie flat on your back with a straight spine, head level.  You can bend your legs or not, whichever feels better on your back.  Without moving your head, look to one side for up to a minute (I count to 60 as slowly as I can)   Then look to the opposite side for up to a minute.  That’s it!  After two weeks of doing this, I started to feel relaxed.  That made recognizing what it felt like to be in an alpha brainwave pattern much easier.  More to the point, I could recognize when I was in Beta so I could do something about it.


**More detail on Open Focus:  The late Les Fehmi, Ph.D., was a pioneer in neurofeedback.  He discovered this simple formula in the late 1960s:  Shift from narrow, objective focus to broad, immersed attention and your brainwaves shift from Beta, associated with tense alertness to Alpha and it’s relaxed attention.  The alpha frequency is the one we are built to live from, but we are taught to focus narrowly until it becomes a habit we don’t know how to break.  The more we do it, the more our brains think there is an emergency and the physical stress response kicks in – shallow breathing, stress hormones, muscle tension, tunnel vision, black and white thinking.  As we shift our narrow focus away from what is stressing us, we inadvertently add to our stress.  For me, this had become my unconscious response.


Coaching  for Executives, Career Changers and the Stressed

It is such an honor to be someone’s coach.  I love the partnership that develops over time, whether that time is three months or many years.  I used to shy away from saying I had long-lasting coaching relationships, fearing that made me look incompetent, but that was before I started working with Executives and the daily complexity they encounter.  It’s a joy to accompany someone in a leadership role.  It’s a joy to be accompanied too.  I cannot imagine my life without my coaches, mentors and other helpers.  Being coached is like being belayed on a climb:  I can bring more of myself to the task at hand knowing someone I trust has me.

We all need another pair of eyes on us now and then. And of course, elite performers never stop learning and growing from coaches, teachers and other helpers. I never grow tired of the power of the coaching relationship. Click on the links below to learn more:

Executive Coaching

Career Changer Coaching

Open Focus

Open focus is a simple, easy to use method of reducing stress and anxiety as you work. If you’re approaching everything in emergency mode, you may not be seeing what is possible in a situation. Open Focus helps us enter the same old situation in a new way.  Open Focus can give you what lifelong meditators have – a calmer, more peaceful mind and a more relaxed body, even in the midst of stress.  I can incorporate it into our coaching relationship, and I run a practice group on Friday at Noon, Pacific Time.

What you can expect

I listen.  Not just to figure out what to say next, but to learn about you, your goals and aspirations, your situation and vision.  Then I tell you what I’ve heard and what I think.  Together, we work out the best way forward.  I may use models and assessments that help us get to the heart of things, often sending you something to quick read or do, or outlining a method that will help.    I encourage you and offer whatever support fits for you (texting between sessions, quick calls, short emails).  I call it like I see it, but compassionately and without attachment, blame or judgement.  This thing called being human is a tricky business.

I coach individuals, pairs, or small groups.  Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.


Need a quick break? Imagine space.

Some friends and I were watching the wildcam at Pete’s Pond in the Mashatu Game Reserve the other evening, not really expecting to see any wildlife as it was high noon in Botswana, which is not a time the animals come to the pond to drink. So, we were especially delighted when camera zoomed in on a lone jackal. This jackal was standing at the water’s edge trembling from head to tail and looking everywhere at once. Occasionally he’d thrust his muzzle into the water then jerk it back and begin looking around again, still trembling like a junkie in detox. Or like Wiley E. Coyote after being electrocuted by Bugs Bunny, if you prefer.

It looked painful.

We started looking for the predator that had the jackal so terrified, but could see nothing. Appearing to read our minds, the camera operator zoomed out, then panned left and right. Nothing.

Our thirsty, trembling jackal was all alone. We sat, staring, for the next 5 minutes, waiting for a denouement. It never came.

I‘ve been that jackal, lost in some repetitive, negative thought, all the while standing in a reality that argues against it. Those thoughts are like having a sore tooth – even though it hurts to keep running my tongue over it, I can’t leave it alone. I’ve gotten much better about it over the years, but I’m always looking to improve my relationship with my brain.

This is why I was so excited to receive and devour The Open-Focus Brain, by Les Fehmi, PhD and Jim Robbins. Without spoiling your reading pleasure, this book summarizes Dr. Fehmi’s decades of research about shifting brain waves from narrow-objective, high-alert beta to relaxed yet alert synchronous alpha. High beta gives us narrow focus and the ability to get things done but comes with a cost: stress, anger, anxiety and muscle tension. Alpha brain waves, especially synchronous alpha (where two or more areas of the brain are vibrating at the same frequency) creates a relaxed, wakeful state that gives rise to effortless, fluid movement, calm spontaneity and an open, light presence. It’s the hallmark of veteran meditators, according to the authors, and leaves the mind functioning better on every level – reasoning, memory, ability to focus.

I tried the first open focus exercise. It directs you to focus your attention both on the object in front of you and on the space between your eyes and around the object. The results were instantaneous. Physically, I felt a sense of ease and softening in my muscles, and I could feel my mind loosening its grip. I hadn’t realized I’d been gripping until I began to let go. It was pure pleasure.

According the authors, our over-reliance on narrow focus attention to perform tasks – the rut we live in – is wearing on the body and brain, but:

“When the mind is asked to imagine or attend to space, there is nothing – no-thing – to grip on to, to objectify and make sense of, no memories of past events or anticipation of future scenarios. The brain is allowed to take a vacation...The imagination and realization of space seems to reset stress-encumbered neural networks and return them to their original effortlessly flexible processing.”

I’ll be practicing this more and getting back to you about the results. I’d love to hear about your experience with it in the comments below.

I wish someone could let that terrified little jackal in Africa know.

The “Yes, And…” Icebreaker

Reading Time: 1.5 mins

Icebreaker Time:  6-10 mins

It’s 92 degrees with 90% humidity and there isn’t even a fan in the room. Our teacher is twenty minutes late. A long-time student stands and turns to face us.

“While we’re waiting for Bob, I think he’d like me to tell you about the two rules of improv. The first rule is to say yes to everything.  Unless we say an unconditional yes to everything, there is nothing to create a scene with.  ‘No’ kills the scene, so we say ‘yes, and’ rather than ‘yes, but.’  ‘Yes, but’ is just an indirect way of saying ‘no.'”

Someone raises their hand, and asks “What’s the second rule?”

“The second rule of improv is that there is no second rule of improv.”  We all laugh and get up nervously to practice in pairs.  One-by-one, someone doubles over with laughter.  It’s like a big game of whack-a-mole:  People who were standing talking suddenly are laughing so hard they cannot stand.  Bob shouts over us:  “Let’s workshop this” and most of us sit down to watch the pair he has singled out.  One of them is still bent over laughing.

Bob gives them a word to start with:  Blister.

“Knock, knock”

“I hate knock-knock jokes.”  (Yes, but – I’ll play, just not your way)

“No really – knock, knock.”  (Yes, but – play my way or not at all.)

His partner freezes.  There is a moment of uncomfortable silence before Bob steps in full of attitude and says “Fine.  Who’s there?”


Bob, rolling his eyes and sighing, says “Bliss who?”

“Bliss-ter!  Get it?”

“How did you know I had a blister?  That’s amazing!  Wait – can you read minds?”

And the scene takes off.

Play to Control or Play to Explore?

You’ve probably been in loads of “yes, but” meetings, meetings where one or more people came with an idea they want others to adopt while pretending to “want input,” or “be open to feedback,” or say “let’s figure this out together.”  And you’ve felt the energy die and seen awkwardness creep in just like it did in the above example.  While it is perfectly valid to ask people to see things your way, pretending otherwise can create a callous in a group.  Over time, this pretense becomes the way we meet and can even evolve into:  “While you are pretending to listen to me, I am pretending to agree with you.”  Demanding control is like that:  It stalls creativity and true collaboration.

The “Yes, And” Icebreaker

The “Yes, And” Icebreaker is a playful way to break up old habits and get the spirit of improv and creativity back in your meetings.  It’s simple, easy and quick:

  1. Agree on a time.  3-5 minutes for the icebreaker and 3-5 minutes to debrief works well.
  2. Set a ground rule of responding to everything by saying “Yes, and…”
  3. The first person makes a statement and the person next to them (the second person) responds by saying “yes, and…”
  4. The next person in the circle responds to what the second person says by saying “yes, and..”
  5. Proceed around the circle until the game stops of its own accord or you run out of time.
  6. Debrief by asking people to reflect on what happened.  Ask how the icebreaker differs from a typical meeting.  Ask how “yes, and” can become a part of regular meetings.

Hint:  Look for speed and fluency – do rounds where you speed up the response time; adopt a ground rule of no pausing, etc.  The focus is on letting go of where you think the conversation was going or should have gone.  Think up your own variations.

Here’s an example

First person: “Dogs are the best pets.”

Second person: “Yes, and I love how they bark at everything.”

Third person “Yes, and their soft coats are my favorite part.”

Fourth person: “Yes, and I like that you can take them to the pound if they don’t work out.”

Fifth person: “Yes, and ‘pound’ reminds me that I love pound cake!   Lemon is my favorite.”

Sixth person:  “Yes, and I love pounding things too – like dough when I make bread.”

Don’t forget to let me know in the comments how this works for you – and share your variations with the rest of us too.  We thank you!