Stories of transformation from Laos and beyond in the words of leaders taking on contemporary issues through business, creativity, and advocacy.
In conversation : Emmanuel Jal on experiences that taught him empathy
Look for the stories. Every day you're learning new stories, because stories are the language in which we learn as human beings. With metaphors, then you get poetry, and then you have got stories.
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Emmanuel and Liz
Alright let’s kill this, let’s do it.
Alright my friend.
Normally, you're traveling the globe and you're leading workshops in person. Tell us a little bit about what your normal life looks like right now. And the timing of the app is really lucky because people really need this right now.
In terms of what the app is about, it's basically for somebody to program their life. You program yourself in order to create the life you want. And it started with me. And it begins with a question who owns your mind? Is it fear, worry, or anxiety, who owns your mind? And because the battles are fought in the mind, and they are won in the heart, and whoever owns your mind owns you and everything you create. And so, I will talk about myself what owns my mind was fear, worry, anxiety and poverty. But what dominated my mind the most was trauma. What is it? I call it a soul mother. I call it an invasion of demons occupies space in your mind. And you have flashbacks in the day and then you have nightmares at night. Well, where did it begin? So, it began, the setback began in my childhood, so I was born when my country was at war. And then I became a child soldier. So those different experiences and a refugee you know and witnessing your entire home village wiped up you losing everything me losing my mom all my aunt has disappeared. The infrastructure that make a child safe and make you become human, is taken away from me. And now getting my life together was a challenge.
You know, I remember when I used to be in school and a teacher would ask me a question and I would not even know that I've been asked a question. A pen would be in my hand and stuck there and it's heavy because a flashback of my childhood has come. And one thing I hated about the flashback when we're talking about when I mentioned what trauma is, is what follows after that, if I stay in it for long, what follows is my body, myself and my body hurts. And then the next thing that happened is it crunch my heart. Just like something is being squeezed like that joy in yourself, the joy inside you something's like snatching it and squeezing it out and then you're left empty. And how you describe, that is you that's like depression calling you and isolating yourself. No, I never had a therapist that I could go to and just open up. My wish was somebody asking me a question. “What is going on in your mind?” Nobody asked that question. People will ask you are you okay? That's not it. I want a specific question. What is in your mind? You know, and so with the way that my life is at, up meditation is built, it's documented on principles. So, let's say, one of the principals would be, let's say, calm, which is one of the principles the universal principle which is ability to control your emotions whenever thing is erupting negatively or positively. Now the reason I call it calm it's because it's the only place I can get into a state of not existing. And what I like about it, this is the place out of let everything to be so not interfere. So, when a positive thought comes, I will not interfere with it, I just allow it to be when a negative thought come, I allow them to be and I allow everything to hurt. If there's a pain, you just allow the pain to be and you just see how it's evolving in your body.
The calm is, one of the most important thing is just focus on your breath. And how I discovered that is, each and every kid, every child knows how to meditate, every resilient kid knows how to meditate, but they don't know it's called a meditation. The universe tells us what to do when we experience extremes, pain. I remember when, when my mom died. The impact did not hit me that time. And how the news came about was a soldier turn up in in our house and he came with a bowl and gave each one of us sticks. And then he asked for water, we fill the bowl with water. And then what the soldier says is ask any of your loved one. And if the sticks down in this bowl, they're alive, but if the stick fall off, they're dead. And then we all balance each and every person put up the stick that was standing that we're balancing on the bowl, you'll tell you that person is alive. Then I will ask and to so the stick fall they said that aunt is dead. Then I put my mom's stick, and say, I'm sorry to tell you, she's gone. Then my sister everybody put it in. I don't understand how this, he came with that formula of energetically using the stick to be able to tell us this person is alive or dead. But to ask us kids and many people my sister everybody has started crying. For me. I still held my thought I didn't believe it until news came later more only told you mom was gone, but I wasn't hit by that. Now the second thing that happened is, so no one family could take us all in. So, my sister was staying with my stepmom, my stepmom beat her, broke her teeth. I was with relatives and then I was taken into a different family. Now the family that I was taken in, what this family did is they accepted me when I came in, but I was given a lot of work. They treat their kids really well, but I was treated a little bad. You know, when you had an orphan, it's terrible.
And then one thing happened is I was around seven I went hunting. And so, when we went for hunting, I had my spear. And there was a huge wild animal. I don’t know if it was a wild beast or a big antelope, it just came toward me and there was a lot of animals. So, I threw my spear and it hit the animal. And then what happened is the animal slowed down the other young man what 12, 14, 16 ran after him to finish it. And they said, guys, it's a man's who throws the first spear, so we have to honor them. And how they do it, it's all the internal organs of the animal are given to the person who threw the first spear and the leg. So that's how they recognized you as the person who threw the first spear. But I was small, I couldn't cut all the internal organs and so I took one leg and the liver and some intestine. And so, when I went to the house, the people were taking care of me, I give them, they're so excited, and I was so excited. They were able to identify by the liver and the intestine that it was my kill. And so that night, I went and took a little bit of rest, so that I could come and catch up with dinner. You know what happened? They ate everything. And they ate the food. And I slept hungry. Now, that was the most torturing night I ever had. And that's when I miss my mom. Because my mom will not do that. My mom will not make me sleep hungry. I cried the whole night and I realized this is it. I'm no longer going to be safe here. So, I started missing my mom the whole night, I just cried. You're here, seven years old, I'll cry and cry and cry. And I was wishing that the sunlight would come out so I could run out of that house and just run to the bush and just go and cry more. And so, I got, I woke up, morning came I ran to the wild, and I just went there. And I keep on walking, walking until I find a big tree. And I just stop under that tree and continue to cry and cry until I was exhausted that there was no more tears and I just dropped down, falling.
Now in this in this falling down and lying down crying is, I was so exhausted that the only thing that was happening is my breath. That's it, just breathing in and out in and out in and I started enjoying it. I said what is this? So, I started just enjoying it. Then my senses became so active that I could feel things, I could smell things really good, I could hear from a long distance, I could hear miles away what is talking, what is near and what is it, my senses were so a lot and I started enjoy you know. In that night, that day when I was crying, I was praying I was cussing god I'm asking questions, like everything possible a kid would have in the covenant. But in the end, what one in the day after I put all that frustration is that moment where I happen to experience heaven as a kid a state of non-exist and I can't seem to find that. Now I can get into a sweet spot that is similar to it, but there's nothing compared to that moment when I felt as a kid. And then I slept after that. So now just imagine like from 11am you go from eight o'clock until like around 5pm. You woke up you realize you haven't eaten lunch, you didn't eat dinner, but I still had energy. And you know what happened to me at that moment? A robust energy was released, that I feel became the foundation of everything that I do, because I felt I'm no longer safe anymore. And I say, now that I am like this, I want to be a part of a solution.
Emmanuel, there's so many things that stick out in this story and one of them is the mind body connection and how real it is, and anyone who, who doesn't associate this connected, continuous reality between what happens here and how that affects our body is missing out. And I think a lot of people are starting to really understand that through meditation. Now I think more and more people are becoming familiar with the way that breathing can impact exactly the moment where we need to solve a problem and gain composure and self-control.
The other thing that really jumps out is the fact of trust being a turning point for you. Your trust in your caretakers was broken. But yet, I'm sure there were many other times where trust was really difficult to have in the situations you were in whether you were, trekking from South Sudan to Kenya, or knowing whether or not someone you called a friend was actually a friend. So how have those experiences shaped the way you trust today and the way you assess how to trust?
In my own experiences, you can speak on one thing, but that can just put you in a box. Now, when trauma comes, it takes you it's freezes everything. Every principle that you know, every kindness, all the stuff, it's like a virus that goes inside you and just hacks into you. So, it could be somebody breaking your trust. If somebody breaks your trust and someone did you something wrong, it will impact everything inside you. Everything inside you is impacted. Let me take it this way. As a kid, I witnessed my village burned down. Me, my mom, my brother, and my uncle were beaten. My nose was here. My aunt is dead. I experienced those things. My village wiped out. Now as a kid when I became a child soldier, because of the energy that was planted in me. The seeds that was planted my desire was to kill as many Muslims and Arabs as possible. That was energy put inside me. And let me tell you that dark energy has power. As a kid I had, I was in two parts. One, I know to walk in the light part, and there's joy in this peace of mind, okay, when I go and meditate for a few seconds, and focus in that breathing, where everything is out, you go in that state of nothingness to experience heaven. But when you come back, the reality is still there. The only thing that does for you is it gives. It allows you to create mental space. And that mental space you've created in which you can add new knowledge if you don't have proper content to put in, that you can use to, to clean up the virus insect, the situation is still going to be there. So just breathing in and out. It's not enough. What happened is the soul, what is in your environment, what are you taking in. So, the kid even though I did not practice it, that time I did it. I only had an experience of it in the worst form, but I didn't know that this is a practice that I have to do. You know? And so, here I am, with bitterness in my heart.
And let me tell any person who's there who's listening. It's impossible to walk in your purpose. Or it's impossible to have compassion, or walk in your full empathy, whatever you call it, when your heart is, is bitter. When you have that anger, because one thing I came to understand about this thing is it was controlling me it has energy. When I wanted to give up from the training of becoming a child soldier, it gave me the energy when a flashback come, I see what happened in my village, that fire in my heart that bitterness light up and I want to kill. It's in me yeah. I'm a child but it gave me so much force but also draining. It was an energy that is tightening you up, it told you about it. It's aggressive, allow you to act temporarily doesn't give it long term energy because it's like it's using a lot of energy. It's two way, it's a double-edged sword, it's hurting inside but he can also use it to hurt others. Now, being able to remove that in my heart, because when I told you any kingdom that is not united shall be destroyed. So, my heart when beaten, this will put in that's was how my kingdom was divided internally. So, learning to forgive, and then we have a forgiveness meditation. So, if you want to clean up your heart to see what energy, what do I need to power my heart. Should I power my heart with purpose? Or should I power my heart with bitterness? Or should I power my heart with self-interest? So, what is powering your heart.
And so when your heart is powered by purpose, you're going to be in balance, you'll have this peace of mind. So it's a whole process when we're talking about trust. Anyone who breaks trust, they have the one with the problem.
You asked me about the how to build trust. So, when your trust is broken, you have a sea of experience a certain pain and now you need to forgive. So, if you don't forgive, then that is going to be in you. So, when you're bitter this what happened. When we are bitter, it's a monster. It will hurt anybody around us. So, if somebody broke your trust and you're not letting go, now you're gonna have your loved ones at home. It will act at a subconscious level to even damage relationship with your children, your kids, your aunties, your friends, your business, every relationship, anybody who's related to you, just because somebody else broke your trust, and you do not let go if you cut it that it would just mess up everything.
It's really about realizing that if we don't take care of our inner world, it does manifest on the exterior to everybody in different ways and the way you can best take care of anyone else is by prioritizing yourself. To what extent have people who have been angels for you made that difference? So maybe talk a little bit about the balance between having some luck with people who've been there as a guide. But then the work that you did to take advantage of the situation that was better and then keep making your situation better.
I like the way you put it. Anybody who say there was nobody who reached out to me, they're lying. Because there's always someone. When you're traumatized, you cannot see them. You cannot see, you're in your own world, you think you're the only one suffering and then you could be taken by a different. If you're riding on, on an energy field that is so dark, it chases people away. It pushes people, even someone who may want to help you, chase them away. I would credit a lot of my transformation now, to basic things my mom taught me when as a kid.
The stories my mom told me, the stories my grandmother told me, and how I watch my mother deal with situations. Now, so on that observation, children learn through observation and being just told what to do. And so those things were controlling how I react on the subconscious level.
This is a great lesson my mom taught me I think she planted the seed as a kid. There's this woman who brought her kid and I look at the kid. And I say, Mom, this kid is ugly. You know I was a kid and the mom was there. Then my mom pulled me aside. What did you say? This kid is ugly. I say mom I say, what did you see? Can you come again? Look, look carefully. Look carefully at this kid and look deeply with your heart. Look at the kid again, from your senses. Forget about all these things. And look again. And the kid was smiling at me. And the eyes were, like, so nice to me. And I was able to forget that ugliness of the kid. And my mom asked me what did you saysabout the kid. The kid is has got a beautiful, beautiful smile. And mom says Okay, next time before you say anything about somebody, see if you can see something else.
If you have kindness, you'll give it. If you don't have it, where do you go? If you have hate, that's all you're going to give.
Now, one of the things that my mom left to me, things she told me is, if anybody ever said anything bad to you can say 10 good things to yourself.
How did that transform me? So I evolved it over time. So when I'm stuck under the tree, I do this 10 good things I said to myself. Yeah. And then what's the next thing you do? Okay, I use this something called positive mindset on the meditation, where you sit down and you allow your thoughts to be. Yeah, then you pick a bottle with a thought. So I used to this timer, you don't fight a thought. But there's a time you can find the thought. When you don't want to fight a thought is when you want to go to a state of calmness. You just want to breathe in and out, breathe in and out and do nothing and just enjoy that.
I wish I knew this a long time ago, but I discovered it in the process. You know, when I used to be in Kenya, I used to lock myself in a darkroom. And in this darkroom, it's also a moment where I would just breathe in and out and then I'll say, okay, demons, you're invited. Now, tell me what you were saying in the day. And then I just let them do their thing and says, like, I sit down and watch a movie. So can you imagine like watching your, your thoughts. I listened to the fear the stories, like I love the fear games because I'd sit down, and I watch a scary movie about events that are going to happen to me. So it's like, Okay, tell me what's gonna happen, then they'll tell me this and then I'll remind you and I'll say, Oh, that's really scary. And then I'll say, Okay, then how do I prevent it? Then the part of my vein will create another story, okay? This is how you prevented this. So, fear, on a more genetic level, on a meditative level. It's what made wise men great, because they listen to the stories that the fear is telling them so they can prepare. Because there's some it's a part of our brain, it's tuned that we will always look for the negativity, whether you like it or not.
It's like practicing, you know, and rehearsing the song, a new song, you're gonna work on it, you're gonna let it be what it is when you're practicing. But then when you go on stage, that's, that's when the real performances and all of that work rehearsing has prepared you for that moment in a way.
Yeah. So I mean, like the way I'm saying it one thing is now I love fear, for one thing. Because fear can tell me things that courage will not tell me. That is the fear of now, where the fear of today is the fear of the things of the past than this the fear of the future. The fear of things of the past gives you depression, because of the defeats what happened to you, how you humiliated and all of that the trauma, it can give you depression. The fear of the moment will give you issues like stress. And the fear of the future will give you different types of anxieties. And so now how do we deal with these things?
So, all of these things are part of your brain telling you, you need to do something. It's your, it's your subconscious communicating to you. It's your body communicating a, you're going to hit there, you're going to do this, then all you have to do is ask what do I have to do? Okay, call Elizabeth. Tell her this is disturbing you and then you call Elizabeth, you know, last night in my head, this was happening, you know? And so what happened is with this kind of fear, so have I found different things on Okay, when I'm dealing with this, what name do I give this? So okay, this one is courage. So I'm gonna create a courage meditation. Okay, what about this one? This is positive mindset. And what is positive mindset meditation or positive mindset meditation is the ability to engage my mind to do what I want. I think it I imagine. I visualize, I organize then I plan and I strategize and then I act with a burning desire. So what is that? What would positive mindset do to me? positive mindset will make me think 30 years because a traumatized mind cannot think beyond a month, beyond a week. It only thinks of the moment of today. It doesn't think ahead. And that's what that's stuck here. And if you look at it, we could take an example of Africa, where wealthy, wealthy, wealthy continent, but our leaders still have traumas. We are programmed to self-destruct. So even though colonialism is gone, but the colonialism left us, internally as slaves internally, not free. We don't like ourselves. We consume stuff from the west`. If you don't, and we hide our money in the West, nobody wants to hide money in Africa. We don't like each other. We don't trust each other.
So, all of those things has been left with us. But how do we move forward, we have to reprogram ourselves. Because, and that's where I really focus in, then there's a principle, which I'm talking about called programming and reprogramming of self, which is also meditation in its own, which is hacking into your subconscious. You know, so that's what there's a whole documentation of the mind life is our meditation. So it's not just one meditation. It's if you're looking to build businesses, or if you're looking in depend where you want to go, we focus on creating habits and beliefs, because those are the habits and beliefs. If you have a vision, you have a dream, and you know your purpose. If you don't create the right habits, you're not gonna achieve the vision. If you don't create the right habits, you're not gonna walk in your purpose. You know, if you don't create the right habits, you'll miss the goals that you'll achieve. And so, and that's how I've been spending my years. So even if my business don't well, I don't blame my people, I look at myself, what is it I need to work inside me. I gave myself three years to create 36 habits. So it's just where now this brain can be rewired. But it can only be wired by who by the owner. Only that because you just have to commit to yourself. Everybody's looking for answers outside, but the answers are inside us.
I really appreciate how you talk about transformation as a multi-step process, where, you know, some meditations are specifically built to focus on breathing and clearing the mind. Whereas others are focused on actually squeezing the thoughts and challenging the thoughts and debating them. And I think that's something that's new for me in the way your app presents, essentially, a program that is designed to allow people to be able to control their process in a way and they start to know what they need in a given moment.
I like the way you describe it. There's like 10 basic principles that made me transform myself. And so I document them and each one of them has a meditation. And then there's like a whole meditation of it that is, you see, like these beads here. Each and every beat is a principle. But not everything is put in a meditation, so it's easy for someone you press. Now, for example, the guiding principles are the ones now we create mantras around. So for example, If somebody is going to act on creating discipline in their life, then they have to do 200 mantras of discipline every day. But there is the guiding principles that it's between every 10 mantras is a guiding principle, before you go to the next one. It's a guiding. So you're creating a map in your mind and often those things become like the sensors that collect data for you to manage your life in the subconscious. So you have gratitude, they're your positive mindset, they're your faith, their faith is a whole different thing. Then you have courage, meditation, which is a whole thing. And then you have love meditation is a whole thing, then you have a purpose meditation, like how that one professor was using it and just call and say, tomorrow, when I'm lost in the day, I just do purpose meditation. It's like a snack. I don't, I don't want to do the long ones because I'm busy. Just I just go for the snack and that's not text me for the whole day. I'm okay. And so but if you really, really, really want to transform your life, this is like the bigger meditation. There you press it at night, or you can do it in the morning, and it tells mantras, all you have to do is listen and follow, listen and follow. So the way it works for someone to have a 360 impact, the first step is you get what you want to work on for that month, the habit you want to create. And then you do those mantras for 30 days, you don't change anything. That's the focus 200 every day. Then the second step would be, you study what it takes you're programming yourself about.
You look for the stories. Every day you're learning new stories about it, because the language that we learn that three ways in which we learn as human beings, metaphor and then you get poetry. And then you have got stories. So those are the ancient language which absorb information quickly. So now when you're going to grab the concept of through the stories and the facts, the stories, expand your memory and create space, and so they become your soul food. So the mantra the meditation become the gym for your mind. And then the soul food, which is also a meditation in itself is you going to collect that data the information and then feed it to create stronger muscles. Then the action is the step now you're going to test how big are my muscles, you do it, and it allows you to watch it. So three steps, your mantras, you search, and then you do action for 30 days. And then how does it happen scientifically.
Discipline is a habit. consistent. Persistence is a habit. integrative thinking it's a habit, leading with questions as a habit. Think about every leadership quality is a habit and a belief. So both of them are hand in hand. And so those are the things we have to focus in creating. And now creating those things, we'll find a way in which you can hack into yourself to create the right habit as fast as possible.
When you do that act the first day, because the new thing your brain releases something called neurotrophins and neurotrophins create dendrites, and the dendrites now absorb this new information and new learning. And then there's something called mylean that is created in the process. With this new information is created then a pathway. New pathways are created, and they're protected. And that's what changed behavior. After 30 days you see you'll be able to and that's the same process I used to rewire my brain, it doesn't mean the trauma is gone. What happened is, I have created multiple new pathways for communication. But if the traumas you have flashback is not as strong as before, because the right side of my brain that has guided me to healing is working. And let me show you how you can track traumatize people in a day, easily. Yeah.
When our body when we are traumatized fully, it wants simple things like a cake, you just want to dance happy jokes, comedy, art, three simple stuff. That's what the brain one the right side of the brain is interested in that. So what did I use? Music. So music will make misty heaven again. What else did I do? I dance. So there's different parts of different nations different kind of people have come with concept. Now when you have a bit of mental space, you can go and talk with a counselor and ask them question yeah, I'm bothered by this and this then you will have enough space to observe what the counselor is telling. Most people that are counseling traumatized people are doing it wrong. In fact, what they should do is bring music, let them dance and jump around. And then after that this space in the head to content.
Well, you're saying joy is healing method finding joy.
You just nailed it. How can you find joy without your purpose? It's impossible. We get snippet of it you get here and there. When we dance, out body releases a lot of good things. Oxytocin, you know, the hormone is released, which make us laugh. Nobody tells you to laugh, but you start laughing because you're dancing. And dopamine is released, they give you focus. And then you have your intuitive energies release. Your empathy is released as endorphins. You know, and I'm trying to speak scientists love. Those I'm trying to bring those scientific like dopamine will help your brain focus just like you and gone to the gym and be creative and create images. And then you have oxytocin which allow you to laugh. Then you have the other one, just like when you hear a story. So all experiences, you do yoga, all those hormones can release, you go and do them type of meditation, they can release. But having a variety is like having a balanced diet. So you can do your little yoga, you're gonna dance, when you do your little, whatever, you're gonna dance if you want to read your Bible. When you do this. You're creating that it becomes neurological, this one neur-obics there's a book called neur-obics because when you do all of this thing, and you're mixing all of this thing, what happens is your brain becomes so active and that's when it does you good.
When you put it this way, again, you're emphasizing the mind body connection. And here is the framework, to essentially be the love. Be the love that makes you love yourself. Be the love that makes you exude this positivity for everyone around you and I that's why I love your message so much. I mean you have many messages but be the love kind of encapsulates everything you've just described.
I mean, how would you become loved if it's not in you. So, I want to say we have created a system that's snatched away our humaneness that the current system that has been created we are adapting to it. But it's so toxic. The only way you know you're human is if you can dance. If you can jump around. If those basic things that kids do, when we leave them, that's when we become like robots.
Look at what Corona has done for us now. This is where everybody's gonna be tested in this situation that we have corona will know who are purpose driven individuals and who are grabbers. You know, the grabbers are going to look for people to kill and take more of them or they're going to not spend anything of their own. They're going to try to take advantage of people who are being pushed by the system. And then the purpose driven individual will sacrifice themselves for others.
Your point about how individual choices impact the whole ecosystem, the social and economic ecosystem that we are all connected to. So the more people that really do try to find their purpose and, and I'll use COVID-19 as an opportunity where people are at home and we have this time that is a gift that it could be a silver lining one of the silver linings of this pandemic.
I think you nailed it there.
There is a process where empathy for others becomes maybe more in tune, and really thinking of what it takes to walk in someone's shoes and to try to understand, like you said, what is it that's causing this particular behavior?
And one of the biggest prints universal principle we have is we have been given the choice to create the life we want. So, where we are in life is how we want it. We want it if you don't want it that way, you look for it. That is one of the greatest courts that I saved today myself. Ask and you shall be given, sick and you find knock on the door shall be open it. now, I like that one because if this is where I want to go, did I ask did I call somebody? Did I knock at the door? You know, what did I do today? What seed did I plant today?
You have to have at least five skills to be able to be to add value. How are you going to add value, or I want to make peace in the world and joy, okay? You want to give world peace and joy? What skills do you have right now that you can help the world? Nothing? What are you doing to grab a skill nothing. Oh, I'm just gonna meditate no, meditate, create mental space, learn a skill.
If you have joy in your heart and your peace of mind, you have enough mental space to take difficult stuff in.
Emmanuel. Thank you so much. This is such a gift to everyone in our community. And to me.
Talk to you soon, sister.