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Making Space for Grief Over the Holidays

Many people see the holidays as a space for joy, which is a wonderful sentiment and intention. But the holidays are also a space for grief. For some people the holidays remind them of turmoil and abuse. Having time and space with family wasn’t a blessing but a threat.

For others the holidays remind them of what’s been lost: Lost family members, lost loves, lost time. Whether it’s the loneliness of the first Christmas in a new town or the grief of the fifth holiday after the death of a beloved friend or relative, there is pain.

Sometimes when we look back we judge the year we’ve had, we feel the failures of the past twelve months, we compare our bounty to the bounty of others and find ourselves, our wealth, and our lives lacking.

All of this is normal and yet, it’s easy to feel a sense of shame, a desire to hide or fix our grief in a season where it seems only joy is allowed. It can push you into isolation or hiding your feelings.

And so my invitation is to allow space for yourself to grieve this year over the holidays. Let yourself cry about the Christmas mornings you didn’t have, cry over the year that went wrong, cry over the loved one who isn’t with you around the hearth. Let your tears flow out so that the joy and gratitude might as well.

The holidays are a merry time of year and letting yourself weep so that your heart may open and you can feel the spirit of love and hope might just be the very thing that allows you to feel close to those you love and those you’ve lost.

This Christmas I’m going to take some time to journal, to grieve, and to love the tender parts of myself. Then I’ll wipe my tears, eat a candy cane, and watch Die Hard (which is totally a Christmas movie BTW) and allow the new space I’ve opened up to be filled with love and gratitude for the incredible life I lead.

I hope each of you makes space for whatever you feel and that you find love in the strangest of places.

The Impact of Fantastic Customer Service

I’ve had the same bank for over a decade. This is despite the fact that this bank has no branches where I live, makes certain kinds of money transfers hard to do, and often has a wait to speak with someone on the phone. 

The reason I keep this bank is that every time I talk to someone I feel like a person. They are really helpful. They go above and beyond. When I think about changing banks I feel like I’d be abandoning an old reliable friend. 

This is the power of really good customer service. 

It’s not really about wait times, or fees, or if the call center is in the same country I live in. 

It’s about feeling like a human being who loves their work and cares about you is on the other end of the phone. 

While efficiency is great, there is nothing that can replace the power of a personal human interaction. 

If you’re lucky enough to lead a small team or run a small business, never forget this. 
It’s a hidden strategic advantage that can’t be underestimated.

The Thankless Thanksgiving: Getting Back To Grateful

Once a year (in the US and Canada) we settle down for a day and focus on being thankful. We cook a big meal, gather people around us, and spend time reflecting on what we have been given.

And yet I don’t know many people who relate to Thanksgiving with real gratitude. We crave a certain dish, we stress about being with family, we think about what we want to buy for Christmas.

Gratitude is funny like that. It’s like flossing for your soul, you always feel like you should be doing more of it, and even when you do it, you need a strict regime to keep going.

It doesn’t seem like being grateful comes naturally to us at all. The Buddha chalked it up to innate human desire. Some of us blame consumerism or capitalism. You might even blame evolution, after all, if we hadn’t wanted more, we may never have gotten down out of the trees and developed big brains designed to help us figure out how to get more of what we want.

But no matter the case, while gratitude is valuable it can be hard to create.

So here are some unusual gratitude practices you might consider:

1. Stop using something you rely on

For one week just stop using something you normally use all the time. You could eat with your left hand instead of your right. Or don’t wear your apple watch. Or go without a car. Or even give up sex or chocolate.

Often we only feel grateful for things we lose, so losing something may help you appreciate that it’s there. (Or you may discover you never really needed it at all)

2. Really thank someone, like from your heart

When you’re checking out at the grocery store, may eye contact with the clerk and thank them. Say something like: “Thanks so much for helping me get checked out today. I know it’s a thankless job sometimes, but you were really kind today and I appreciate it.”

Part of why gratitude doesn’t work is that we treat it like flossing. If we treat it as a true expression it has a better impact.

3. Set aside money to spend on other people

Studies have shown that we experience more joy when we spend money on other people. So instead of waiting until the holidays or birthdays try giving people gifts out of the blue. Or even buy coffee for someone. Or make small bags with socks and apple sauce for people in need.

Basically, set aside money every month to give to people in order to create joy for you and for them. Not only will this make you grateful for yourself, it will help other people feel grateful too.

4. Practice being grateful for things you don’t like

Instead of just going around the table saying good things you are grateful for, try going around the table and sharing about things that are challenging but still have given you something good.

So often we only see easy things as blessings even though it’s often the challenges in life that change us most of all.

5. Take on a blessing challenge

Before almost every meal I say a blessing with my partner. I’ve done this since I was a little kid and even though we often say the same one, it’s very special when we speak from our hearts.

For one week challenge yourself to say an actual blessing over your food. Thank the people that picked and packed your veggies, reflect on how lucky it is to be alive, be grateful for the job you have or the people who love you. By taking time to really reflect rather than having gratitude be a repetitious act can shift everything.

No matter how you practice gratitude this week, remember that gratitude isn’t some habit you should be doing. It’s an inner stance that can change the way you see everything. It may not come easy, but if you take the time to renew it, you might begin to relate to the blessings in your life from an entirely new place.

Capacity vs. Too Much

There are certain amounts of things in us, energy, love, enthusiasm.

The amounts they exist in are simply the amounts they exist in. At some point we get told or we determine that some amount of some things is TOO MUCH or TOO LITTLE and we begin to compensate.

But there is never too much or too little of us, there is just what is in us and what is not.

There is what we have learned to be with and what we haven’t learned to be with. When we’re babies we can’t be in a bath, it’s more water than we can be with, and then we can be with a bath, but not a swimming pool, then maybe yes a pool but not the ocean, then maybe the shore but not the deep.

We can continue to grow what we can be with in the world and in our selves.

There is never too much, only what we have and haven’t developed the capacity to be with.

Holding Back

Right now you may be holding back
how you feel
how you want to live life
deciding what to do next

You may be holding back
your dreams
your hopes
your desires

You may be holding back
your fears
your annoyances
your paranoia

You may be holding back
your love
your expression
your boundaries

You may be holding back
and back
and back

Like a little tempest in a teapot

And it makes sense
The world has asked you to hold back
To stay inside
to make being around the same people a lot more than normal work
to make working from home work
to make a pandemic work
to make your life work in a way it may never have worked before

You may be holding back
how well this is working for you
the relief you feel that you don’t have to drive your kids to school
or go into the office
how right you feel about how bad this has all gotten
because you saw first how bad it might be

You may be holding back
what you want to say
what you really need
what is missing

in an effort to keep the peace
inside your household
inside your company
inside your mind

And it’s okay
it’s ok to hold back right now

But it’s so important for you to understand
that holding back
the end all be all fix for everything

It can work
in the same way a pressure cooker works
it can steam and stew
it can process

but if you don’t let it out
a little
with a safety release valve
you may just explode

split pea soup on every wall
chili con carne on the ceiling
shrapnel in the kitchen sink

don’t hold it all in
let it out
even a little bit
hit a pillow
scream at the moon
curse the gods

share what isn’t working
with compassion
with love
own up to where you’re feeling weak
ask for help
pick up the phone
reveal what is hidden

in this time where so many of us feel hidden in our homes
there is a great revealing
of what was workable about our lives before and what was unworkable
of what we loved about our lives before and what was missing

you can allow these revelations to allow your heart and life to blossom
or you can add them to the backlog of things unsaid
life unlived
love unexpressed
desire unspoken
dreams tucked away in sleep

days and days of surviving
the one thing that you can’t survive
being alive

it’s time to stop holding back
take a long hard look
take a big gulp
take a slow deep breath

and let it out
if even
just a little

So I ask you
what is it that you are holding back?


Anytime we add extra energy, assessment, judgment, evaluation, celebrity, grandeur, meaning, impact, emotion, thought, or resistance to something. We can have a fly land on us and simply feel the legs or we can run around screaming that we have been infected by a deadly disease I KNOW I’M GOING TO DIE NOW. The latter is a form of significance. Somethings we add significance to on purpose. Weddings, graduations, funerals etc. which is good it increases the way they are created and the impact they have on us. So significance isn’t bad, it is simply something extra. The key is to be conscious of where we add significance and to only do it when and where we declare it serves our values.

9 Steps To Design, Price, and Sell a Coaching Program | Creating a Powerful Coaching Engagement

People get all tied up in knots about how to price and design their engagements with clients. This is especially true when moving beyond a 1-1 coaching format. I often get questions about what to do if a company wants you to coach their entire leadership team, two co-founders, or some other type of engagement. So I’ve created a simple outline for the process that I use. 


9 Steps for building a powerful coaching engagement

  1. Consider what would serve the client, no price tag or considerations for time.

  2. Consider what options might exist in that realm of service. What’s the most invested client engagement and what’s the minimum?

  3. Once you’ve created the package, consider your own time, the value of the engagement, the context of affordability and possibility for the client(s).

  4. Craft a package focused on benefits and resting firmly on the thing that would serve the client most.

  5. (If needed) compare those options to previous investments, the market rate (which is incredibly variable), and how it feels energetically for you. You might then ask a few other coaches to look over your proposal to uncover what exactly you may be missing.

  6. Create the conversation with the client inside a context of what they want to create and the commitment required from them. This is centered around what they want to create, the impact of taking no action, and what’s in the way of them creating what they want. 

  7. Be with them fully as their resistance and challenge to commitment arise.

  8. Support them to make an empowered yes or no around that commitment, while standing for the structure and commitment required to make the change they want to make.

  9. Throughout keep your attention on two things   
    1.  A willingness to say no to your client if what they want won’t really serve them or be enough to create the change they are seeking to make.
    2. Trust yourself and your instincts as a coach because that’s all you got. 

Case Study: How Claire reinvigorated her practice and created $14k in new business all while planning a wedding, getting married, moving houses, and becoming pregnant.

coach case study claire

The Catalyst –

Claire is a life coach that left a successful career to follow her dreams of fulfilling work and adventurous travel. She coaches people who want to change their careers and/or follow their dreams. She joined the Embodied Coach Mastermind in November of 2020 here’s her story – 

What were you doing before the Mastermind?

Before the Mastermind Claire had always been serious about being a good coach. She had trained 1-1 with a powerful coach I know in the UK. She had been a part of 3 other programs I’ve run for coaches in the past and had even begun to train herself to train with and work with other coaches. 

And yet Claire seemed to be stuck in the cycle I see a lot of coaches stuck in. She would have a pretty full roster of clients that would fade away over time, followed by long stretches of few to no clients. These fits and starts were not only tiring they really impacted Claire’s confidence. After all there were other (less good) coaches around her with thriving practices. 

What hesitations did you have about joining the mastermind?

The Experience – 

What did you like best about the Mastermind?

On our first call Claire had been deeply moved by her connection to her essence, but she wasn’t getting that out into the world. Like many of the other programs I had done with Claire she was engaged, inspiring, and radiant as a member of the community 

But something wasn’t quite right. Even though I worked with her before, the action oriented stance of the Mastermind started to reveal that despite showing up as a good student, Claire was taking enough action outside of the classroom. I knew we needed to shift something. 

The Breakthrough –

How did you benefit from the Mastermind? 

I can still remember the call where things shifted for Claire. It was a Friday accountability call and she was talking about why she hadn’t sat down to work on her business like she had committed to. She was talking about her limiting beliefs and how she needed to shift them when I stopped her. I said to her 

“When I just got to commit and get to work. That’s when you’ll really start to shift your beliefs and start to see things in a new way.”

After that things changed for Claire, she created a structure for herself and most importantly she empowered it by showing up to it consistently. She used the group to keep her accountable and to inspire her to get back into action when she got stuck. 

It was so simple, but it was just this simple step that had such an incredible impact on her as a coach. 

Pretty soon Claire started signing clients, and by the time the Mastermind was done she had created over $12,000 in new business. 

What specific results have you achieved as a result of being in the Mastermind? 

  • A client for 3 months @ £2000 
  • A client for 3 months @ £1750 (has committed to next 3 months too) 
  • A client for 6 months @ £2500 
  • A client for 3 months @ £1000 
  • An ongoing client @ £200 a month 
  • An ongoing @ £50 a month

This is what is possible with both a commitment to coaching, some simple structure, and most importantly a willingness to empower that structure on a regular basis. 

Conclusion –

Would you recommend me and the Mastermind? If so, why and to whom?

Claire created something that’s so hard to create. She shifted something that she had struggled years to shift. And it wasn’t because of some crazy hack, or sales funnel. It happened because she applied herself in a new way, she made a commitment and worked through what showed up in the face of it. 

Claire embodies the truth that very often the biggest results aren’t the dollars (or pounds) we earn, but the changes we make in ourselves. That’s the real reason I love doing the mastermind, because not only do people create the foundation for a sustainable practice, they step into their calling to become a coach, and to me that’s the thing that can start to change the world. 

You can learn more about Claire at

I’ve only got one spot left in the upcoming mastermind so if you’re ready to make a change, nows the time. Let’s Talk



Should I coach my best friend?

If you’re a coach for any length of time the question about who you should and shouldn’t coach will come up. Eventually, you’ll either want to coach a close friend or family member or they’ll want to work with you. But can you or should you do this? 

Recently a coach posted the following question in a community forum I’m a part of: 

What are your thoughts about coaching close friends/ having them participate in programs you facilitate?


And here was my response. 


I think this is dicey at best (This is coming from someone who coaches their own father soooooooo….. 😱😱😱😱😱) 


I think it’s 100% possible but you need to get very clear on a few things:


Priorities – If the friendship/relationship is the priority how will you deal with it if the coaching impacts the friendship. What’s the bail/pull the chord agreement? 


The last time I was in business/coaches a close friend we agreed beforehand the friendship mattered more to us than our business. Which made a HUGE difference when he wanted to bail suddenly. I could have held it against him, but I reminded myself of what we had said. I let the business go and kept the friendship and our relationship was even stronger as a result. 


Confidentiality – How will you handle information inside/outside the container? Can you ask questions or reference things you know about them as a friend? Or can you only talk about things that get brought up in the group? If it’s the latter how are you going to navigate that? 


If things get brought up in the group can you talk about them inside your friendship? And how are you going to make sure things stay sealed? 


I’m very clear with my father that I won’t bring up coaching things outside of our coaching, but sometimes things do come up when we spend time as a family. For me, the line is to reference things only in an energetic sense, but never directly. Luckily he generally talks about things like business with us in a family setting as well, so I trust us in how to navigate that boundary but if he was more private it might be more challenging. 


Roles – What roles do you currently play in one another’s lives. How will you discern between the coach/client role and the friend/family role? 


When I’m in sessions with my dad I refer to him as Al, I call his wife Peg, I’ll even mention his children. I use these named protocols two separate the two types of ways we relate to each other. I developed this technique when I worked for his company many years ago. It isn’t perfect but it helps. 

In addition when he wants to discuss personal issues during our coaching time (like the next time I come to visit) I ask that we bring those things to our weekly family call instead. I’m not saying there’s never any overlap, but I work to be constantly attending to the container so it’s as clean as possible. 


I think this is esp. important if you’re very different as a coach than as a friend. In my relationship for example I tend to be more empathetic and offer witnessing more than I would in my coaching relationship. Sure I hear my clients but if they loop, if the same pattern shows up again I point it out and challenge them. If I did this in my romantic relationship without checking in first it wouldn’t go very well.


If your friend expects you to show up as a friend and you show up as a coach how is that going to go? 


Consider how it impacts the space: Will you be able to be in the space and be impartial with your friend? Can you make sure not to use any inside jokes or inside language with them? How are you going to share the fact that there’s a different relationship in the space? 


When I run strategic planning sessions with my father’s company I presence the fact that we’re related to one another, esp. when a new team member is in the room. I feel confident about my ability to treat him the same way I’d treat any CEO. but I do know this is harder in group coaching when I have a close relationship with a few of the members. 


When I run Half Day Dojo’s and dojo alumni show up I have to be careful not to talk to only them, because it can leave other people feeling like they’re on the outside of the group. So I do my best to treat everyone the same. I might check in with someone I know well, but then I move my attention on to the group as a whole. 


Ideally, you need to let people know that there’s a relationship there and how you’re holding it. People will almost always pick up on it if you don’t. 


Are you getting supported? – Since coaching a friend may bring up your own stuff, how are you going to get supported so you can show up cleaning in the relationship or space you’re creating? 


I could never coach my own father or have a friend in my groups unless I was working with a coach. If you’re going to take this on, bring it to your coach (and if you don’t have one get one), talk it out and see what you would need to be a strong stand for them. 


I also bring these kinds of questions to my close coaching peers. It’s this kind of thing that the Pilea consultation groups are great for. Because you can discuss how other coaches handle this while also attending to your own boundaries. 


Final thoughts – 

So should you coach a family member or close friend? 

In most cases, they will be better served by referring them to another coach. Because the relationship is cleaner and the work can be more direct. But if you really want to do it, make sure you really consider the issues above. 


Yes, you can do this but it requires a lot of attention and work before, during, and after the engagement. It should only be done with the support of a coach and a group of peers and being able to be very clear an why you’re choosing to work this way. 


For me and my father, this arrangement works great for us. We both like being in charge in a way and both get a lot out of working together. Because in a coaching relationship the coach is in charge of the container and the client is in charge of the process it balances our relationship in a way nothing ever has. When I worked for him and disagreed with his choices I would get frustrated and annoyed especially when it impacted my day to day work. And I doubt he would enjoy working for me for the same reason. 


By coaching him I can give him my best insights, offer my best questions, and then let him choose what he wants. My role as a coach works for our relationship, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it for anyone else. But my hope is that what I’ve learned from working with him will help you work with your clients as well. 


Love, Toku


Additional Resources


Case Study: This coach set a goal to have a $25k quarter and made it happen.

Jonny Roman specializes in helping his clients navigate through the dark waters of life and remove the fears and blocks that stand in their way. He joined the Embodied Coach Mastermind in November of 2020. Here’s his story:

The following was pulled from Jonny’s feedback form at the end of our engagement as well as my own observations of his growth. 


The Catalyst:

When I joined the Mastermind I had just completed one coaching program and was wanting another opportunity for support.  My business was doing pretty good overall, though it certainly had its challenges.  That pandemic didn’t negatively impact my business that much. But I think the biggest challenge was in my own trust in myself and my work as a coach. That’s the biggest piece I think I wanted to shift. I was still experiencing a fair amount of stress as I pursued my business and when I saw clients on my calendar.

My biggest hesitation was that I didn’t know much about Toku at all.  We had essentially had one conversation (maybe two? I can’t remember).  And I remember thinking, this is kind of a leap of faith I’m taking here.  I hadn’t had any prior experience with you other than a few of your materials I had read. So that felt like a big hesitation on my part.  But I had a sense that it was going to be a good fit for me.


The Experience:

I loved the container.  I loved the small, intimate group. I enjoyed having a weekly Friday check-in. I enjoyed watching Toku coach and learning from him and his coaching style. I appreciated a lot of the peel-back-the-curtain approach Toku had with showing us the inner workings of his business.  I appreciated the “new” (new to me) approach to business.  I appreciated the heart-centered masculine examples that were present throughout, with Toku, Lee, Chris, and Kelby.

I would definitely recommend the mastermind to other people. I think there’s a lot to learn from you, Toku. I think you have a really great style of coaching. I enjoyed learning from it.  I would recommend it to a coach who is interested in up-leveling and learning more nuances about having a thriving coaching business.


The Breakthrough:

Because of the Mastermind, I know more about my metrics than I did before and tracked them more.  For example, I created a 4th quarter goal of $25,000 and actually hit that goal, which felt pretty amazing!  

The business was the result of how I showed up, how I held myself, how I thought about myself, my coaching, and trusted myself more. And I can tie that to work we did in the Mastermind like learning about my Essence, learning new ways of coaching and being coached.  All of which was very helpful. 


“I created a 4th quarter goal of $25,000 and actually hit that goal, which felt pretty amazing!”

Jonny Roman, Sustainable Transformation Coach, (Duluth, Minnesota) 


The most important thing people should know about the Embodied Coach Mastermind? 

It’s worth it. I really do feel like I came out on the other end of this growth in a number of ways.  My financial advisor/coach feels like she can see a direct result between me starting the mastermind and my relationship with money and my ability to make money shifting.

I really enjoyed my experience.  I would even consider doing it again.


Toku’s Reflection:

When I met Jonny he was clearly a talented coach. He had a master’s degree, had been coaching for a few years, and had an ability to listen and be with his clients in a powerful way, but Jonny didn’t see himself like that. 

I noticed how he would get caught in overthinking vs getting into action. He didn’t really realize how powerful he was, how far he had already come, and how ready he was to step into the next phase of his evolution as coach.

It was amazing to watch Jonny step into his true power as a coach throughout the mastermind. He raised his rates, signed new clients, but more than anything else he developed a deeper sense of confidence. 

Perhaps the coolest thing to see was how Jonny stepped into fatherhood in the midst of the Mastermind. Even though he missed a couple of calls he stayed engaged and it was incredible to see his shift of perspective after becoming a dad. One thing I love about the Mastermind is that it’s not some program where life is out there and the work is in here. We really get to be in each others lives as we change, that part is so rewarding for me and I think for other members of the community as well. 


You can learn more about Jonny at