Interview with Chen Lizra by Hanan Awaad
Chen Lizra, your grand, record-breaking TED talk on the Power of Seduction in our Everyday Lives with over 7 million views was my first encounter with you. Personally, I’ve watched your TED talk several times. Every time I watched it I got new ideas, new questions and new revelations; so when the opportunity came to interview you, I just jumped in.
You are very kind. It always moves me to meet people that are touched by my work and to hear how it impacted them.
For all our readers, who know nothing or just a few things about you, let them know who you are and what you do.
I am Chen Lizra – (BBA) TED Speaker, award-winning social entrepreneur, Somatic Intelligence life coach, best-selling author & professional dancer.
My speciality is transforming people by changing behavioural patterns through bodywork. I offer Somatic Intelligence workshops, 1-on-1 assessment and sessions, training programs and keynote speeches, using the unique 5 Elements of Somatic Intelligence method I developed. I work with individuals, organizations and events to cause transformation through the body, through experiencing, changing patterns for the better.
What was your journey to becoming an expert in behavioural transformation?
I lived in Japan in an old traditional dojo and studied Zen meditation before becoming a computer animator. I worked for close to a decade at the top of the animation industry all across Canada on projects for VH1, TVA, Alliance Atlantis, Radical Entertainment and Mainframe Entertainment. This corporate creative world and the burn out I experienced in it, drove me to investigate the very human skills I now teach to transform others.
I completed a BBA and launched my 1st business in 2005 – the Cuban dance academy – which led me frequently to Cuba. Over a decade I have investigated Cubans’ emotional intelligence’s secrets through their body language – a culture that due to its unique circumstances did not lose the body-mind connection lost in our Western World – resulting in my unique somatic method. This experience also inspired my TED talk which gained to-date over 7 million views.
WAW, from animation and art to business to dancing to finding your life purpose. It’s fascinating how dancing enabled you to learn about life and develop a unique approach to life coaching..how does all this connect?
First of all, we are all somatic beings. Soma is the body. When you watch babies, they communicate through the body alone, no talking. The problem is that with the years and due to the modern lifestyle we tend to disconnect from the body and it causes many problems and illnesses. Stress and burn out, for example, are the lack of a release. It’s energy stuck in the body. In reality, the way we move is the way we live life. I can tell you after five minutes of bodywork how you live your life, just from the way you are moving. The amazing thing is that if you change the way you move, you also change the way you live life.
Animation is all about body language – you animate characters, and you tell stories, creating worlds. You have to be able to move, for example, a character’s facials to tell a lie. So you have to understand how that differs from someone telling the truth. The characters are realistic when we get what they really mean by their behaviour, even if they say the opposite. Their body language and facial expressions speak louder than their words – because we listen to the somatic before anything. It imitates life.
Creating worlds and story-telling are two of my fortes. If you’ll notice, my TED talk was very somatic – it made you feel and experience what I wanted to say. I didn’t just talk about it. In animation, we tell a story through the characters, and we dive into the character’s world. In coaching, I see where they are, what is possible for them, and I lead them to a new world. We get to write our own story, and it can be a much more inspiring one than the one we are currently living. For this to happen, we must let go of old patterns, the inner critic and our ego, and connect with our soul – to that pure feeling we had as children, connecting to our full potential. Animation opened my mind in ways that mostly kids experience – in animation everything is possible if we can just imagine it. And don’t forget that our thoughts create our reality. It’s tremendous power.
I left animation because the industry got me burnt out. It had no healthy boundaries, and this came right after living in Japan and studying Zen meditation and balance. I wanted to find a way to prove that we can healthily do business, to not forget our humanity. I just didn’t know how big of treasure I’d find. I did business school and opened my first business – the Cuban dance academy. I got to travel to Cuba on a regular basis for over a decade. Traveling back in the time allowed me to notice something amazing – that due to the unique circumstances of living with very little material things and barely having any access to technology, they didn’t lose their somatic intelligence, on the contrary, they evolved it even further. They hold many human secrets that we crave in the Western World. My journey has been about extracting it before we lose it from this world, and to break it down into effective programs that change behavioural patterns. I am now working on launching new programs for the corporate world, coming full circle. I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world. If this knowledge will become common knowledge, impacting the quality of life of many people around the globe, and will live past me, then I have done well.
Recently I was introduced to the feminine power concept, but like many other women out there I am still struggling to understand the concept and how to apply it in my personal life. What is feminine power and how can women get in touch with this power.
Feminine power is innate in women. We are all born with it no matter our ethnicity, culture, body type or shape, or skin colour. In the past, this knowledge was passed down through the generations.Today it’s more difficult – the thread got cut off in many cultures and families. Due to this many women don’t know how to tap into it and the whole fear of sexual harassment is not helping. The good news is that you don’t need to go looking for it – it’s in you. You just need to learn how to tap into it.
To learn it, the best thing is to have someone teach you. You need an example because it’s somatic, it’s absorbed through the body, not through the head. There are different types of methods to learn your feminine power – dance is one way which is beautiful. It’s important to remember that there are degrees of femininity. We each have a maximum that’s natural to our personality. We might be currently at 10%, 50%, 80% or a 100%. Wherever we are we need first to assess our starting point so it can provide us with a roadmap. You need to experience what you don’t know that you don’t know. And for that, it’s essential to have a role model that embodies it also through values and ethics and will dare you to go beyond where you are comfortable, into the magical unknown.
Many women that I teach tell me that what challenges them the most is the vulnerability that they experience with their new femininity. I work with The 5 Elements of Somatic Intelligence – Elegance, Intention, Tempo, Sabrosura and Mystery. They are like a palette of colours, and they balance and complete each other. Here is what the sabrosura is. So for example, when they let the sabrosura out they feel vulnerable and exposed. I then bring out their elegance and intention which gives them more emotional sturdiness, like a container for their vulnerability. It’s full power yet soft, warm and welcoming. Add some of the mystery, and you got playfulness and intrigue. Many women don’t have this whole experience.
This full feminine power can move mountains. Women can use their femininity to further their success. And before all the bells go off, I don’t mean it by using sexuality to attract and advance oneself. I mean, for example, that the soft female energy can soften conflict and aggression. Feminine traits are about long-term thinking, shared values and community, affection, caring, understanding, compassion, softness, flexing etc. We all have male and female energies in us. Doing is considered masculine energy and being is regarded as a feminine energy. The problem starts when we are not authentically us. This happens a lot to women in business who are afraid they will not be taken seriously in the boy’s club because their femininity will be considered as a weakness. As a result, many give up an essential part of themselves. Operating out of the wrong emotional place tires them. In reality, they will do better in business if they master their feminine power. We are in an era when the world is open and ready for it – look at Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman and the response to this film. The world has embraced with love this influential figure who is also so feminine. There is a great opportunity here to change the rules of the game and the status quo.
Many women wear several hats during the day; they have dreams and aspirations and so many things to achieve. However one of the common complaints I hear from women is that there is no time or energy to pursue what they desire. How do we find time, energy and vitality to fulfil our dreams?
By being on purpose!
Imagine when you were five years old, everything was possible. You jumped out of bed with excitement, couldn’t wait to start the day. Those that went on to adulthood operating out of this belief have vitality and tons of energy. Those that decided it was time to “grow up” and accept that these dreams were childish are surviving life. The most draining thing to do is what you don’t like doing. If you hate something, you waste a lot of energy. The same if you are just doing it to pay the bills. To have an intention is to have a purpose, to have a purpose is to impact, and to impact is to feel fulfilled and satisfied. It generates energy and gives you vitality. Making a difference is all about purpose and vitality.
There are many different reasons why people drain out of energy. I see, for example, a lot of people that are not going for it because of the fear of failure. They give up their vitality and get stuck in comfort. Pursuing your dreams requires courage and determination. It isn’t all smooth sailing, but it sure is gratifying. Also, when you pursue a dream, there are many sacrifices on the way – personal and professional. Not everyone is willing to make these sacrifices. When kids come into the picture, you end up with less time, but you also gain love and an emotional buffer. If you married well, you would find the way to succeed as a team taking turns. If you are divorced, then you will have time when your kids are not with you. Basically what I am saying is that we need to own it and get past the stories, then find the way to make it happen. There is always a way. This includes limiting social media and TV time which are time suckers. There will still be sacrifices. You also have to keep your eyes on the prize. Many people get sucked into the moment and don’t hold the energy of the long-term vision alive when it takes a long time to get there. It’s what it takes to see it to success.
Another critical thing to remember is that there is a tempo of enjoyment that’s innate in the body. What I found in the soma (the body) is that we used to live at a slower pace in past generations, and through our body movements a natural chemical got released while we were walking, talking etc., that made us feel happy. But as the world advanced, the pace of life became rushed, and the technology took over every second of the day, people lost that natural tempo – the inner rhythm of enjoyment. So they end up with a mentality of “I’ll just finish this and this and this and this and then I’ll let go.” But by the time they get there they don’t know how to let go anymore. It’s like an addiction to the stress that the body learns as a behavioural pattern. What I do is teach people how to tap back into the natural tempo of enjoyment and how to change the behavioural pattern for the better. When the body re-learns where that is, suddenly stress and anxiety dissolve, and we enjoy the most mundane tasks again, enjoying the journey and not just the end goal. It’s not just a cliche. It’s amazing how quickly you see the results. This is something we need in our daily lives but also in corporations to keep productivity at a high level.
Confidence is a big dilemma. Some people have it, some fake it and some are struggling with it. What is your take on confidence and how to build self-esteem and deal with the distorted self-image?
Let’s start with the fact that the media portrayal of the perfect body image is a big part of the problem. It leaves us feeling like we are not enough. The way societies are operating today are producing many people with damaged self-worth. Chapman University found out that how we feel about our body is one of the top three factors that affect our satisfaction in life.
Spending so much time in Cuba, a country that has no advertising whatsoever, I got a glimpse of what our body image would be like if we lived according to how we just felt, what it would be like if the community’s opinion was not tinted by a set agenda, if we didn’t get criticized all the time about our flaws. It is spectacular. I have never personally felt more beautiful anywhere else in the world than when I am in Cuba. It made me realize that we as a society have a choice – to not buy into the marketing messages. Currently, we give it power by reducing our self-worth. We can decide to raise our self-awareness and self-worth to the point that it will not affect us. Self-worth is directly linked to self-confidence, and both start to develop with the love (or lack of) we get at home, plus what we are told since a young age. The inner critic, our self-judgement that tells us all the things we are doing wrong, is an internalized voice of the things we heard, since a young age, from the people around us that criticized us. Your confidence is high or low based on how much you buy into this internal voice. When you dare go after your dreams, you have to learn how to self-manage all the default mechanisms so they will not sabotage you. The more you succeed, the more you learn how to get off it.
Many women today look in the mirror, and they don’t love what they see, on the contrary – they only see what they think is wrong. The trick is to change this dialogue. The first thing to do is to meet yourself in the mirror every day (for example when you brush your teeth or dress up) and find something that you love about yourself – external or internal. There can be no buts at the end of the sentence and no I like this, and at the same time, I don’t like that. Only something that you love about yourself. Do this for a month every day twice a day, and you will notice a difference in your self-worth and confidence.
When I work with clients on confidence and self-worth, I focus on three things – elegance, intention and the sabrorusa. The sabrosura releases physical self-love in the body. To move so sensually you have to learn how to love every part of your body with no judgement. It’s magical and so worth the journey yet most people don’t even know that the sabrosura exists. The elegance raises self-worth and confidence by giving us a more physical presence. It’s a Power Pose that changes the chemistry in our body, changing our behaviour, and as a consequence the results. Through elegance, and I don’t mean what you wear, but how you carry yourself, I can get people to experience their full confidence reaching as high as possible for them, beyond what they know exists. And adding intention in the body adds drive, purpose and meaning. Teaching them through body language how to hold the power in the body, shoots the confidence up. It’s a Fake it till you BECOME it. The results so far are phenomenal.
All of the five elements work together – reducing self-judgement, increasing self-love/worth, adding focus, fun and playfulness, by changing the behavioural patterns.
Chen, I am a fan of Cuba and everything Cuban, and I believe that this jewel has well-kept secrets that are ready to be explored. How do you see Cuba in the future?
Cuba is a gem and people need to experience it now. It is changing, and eventually, it will catch up to the rest of the world. They won’t lose completely all this fantastic knowledge they have, but it won’t be the same. Cuba is already not what it was in 2005 when I first arrived. Part of why there is something amazing in Cuba, from a human social perspective, is because of the solidarity, the lack of internet, the slow pace, the fact that they can’t chase meaningful careers, and they invest so much time and energy in the family and the community. There are those that say that Cuba was capitalistic in the past and it was just as magical then, but it was a different world back then. There was no internet or social media, and the values were different around the globe – there were no reality TV shows. Cuba will change because Cubans desire a more relaxed life and basic freedoms, and like the rest of the world – they deserve it. They will get what they want, but the change will come with a price tag – a social one. The material and the social should go hand in hand, but in reality, one comes at the expense of the other. The more comfortable we get material wise, the less we lean on each other, and the more we neglect the social. Yet, belonging, family and friends are top influencers on our happiness and satisfaction in life. Change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a gradual process that evolves over time. One day you wake up, and you realize that a decade went by and things have changed a lot. This is why I am trying to extract all the knowledge that I can, as soon as I can. And I’ll add to this – if you wish to experience this magic, go to Cuba now.
You are a businesswoman who ventured into the world of tourism, a best selling author, a TED fellow and a life coach. How do you decide on your next adventure?
Within the vision, there can be different opportunities, and you can’t do them all, evidently not at once. There are times of focus and times of expansion. Too many choices get us paralyzed. At times of expansion, I allow myself to explore different options with no judgement of my lack of decision or focus. But eventually, I have to pick one and focus on it, to really lock down on it. Then I get super productive and come out with new things. I just went through this process and landed on a great project that I am super excited about.
What is next for Chen Lizra?
I am working on a leadership program, for senior and executive females aimed at top corporations, with a partner – international executive coach Christopher Weber Furst, who specializes in value-based leadership and is the author of the book The Future is Female, and Yara Ben-Chaim Mizrachi who is a CTI faculty leader and an international executive coach.. The leadership program is like no other because it focuses on our personality, the human factor – our most crucial competence, and one of the top assets we have for success. We are combining cognitive and somatic coaching to shift behavioural patterns and to help more women rise to the top. Currently, there are just 24 female CEOs at the Fortune 500 companies. That’s only 4.8%. Research proves that having more female executives leads to higher bottom line profits. We want to deliver a product that will help close the gap, will inspire courage in them to dare go all the way, and offer them the kind of skills that they need to make it. I can’t even express in words how excited we are about this program. We are hoping to launch it at the beginning of 2018.