Embodying Conscious Leadership with Samreen McGregor


In this insightful conversation, Samreen McGregor, an executive coach, Founder of Turmeric Group, and author of ‘Leader Awakened’, talks about her journey through her son’s battle with cancer, its profound impact on her life and professional work and how it led her to write ‘Leader Awakened’.

She discusses the importance of self-connection and grounding in our reality for leadership, and the power of embodying conscious leadership. She shares her experience of finding solace and regulation through embodied practices like yoga and breathwork, and the lessons learned from a Medicine Festival about indigenous wisdom and spiritual self-awareness.

Samreen McGregor

Britt Frank, LSCSW, SEP is a licensed neuropsychotherapist and author of The Science of Stuck (Penguin Random House), named by SHRM, Esquire, New York Magazine, and The Next Big Idea Club as a must-read. Britt received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her master’s degree from the University of Kansas, where she later became an award-winning adjunct instructor. Britt is a contributing writer to Psychology Today and her work has been featured in Forbes, NPR, Fast Company, Psych Central, SELF, and Thrive Global.


The conversation also explores the systemic perspectives in leadership, the need for slowing down, being with things we may not like, and moving from a state of ‘sleepwalking’ through life to ‘awakening’. Samreen emphasizes the need to accept the ‘not so good side’ as a means of making progress in life.

We talk about:

  • [0:00] Intro

  • [3:00] What inspired her to write Leader Awakened

  • [8:10] The power of ‘awakening’

  • [12:10] The shadow side of ambition and acknowledging our trauma side

  • [17:40] The dilemma around using the word ‘trauma’ in her book

  • [19:20] Working with clients to help them through to the awakening stage

  • [27:25] Yoga and embodied practices

  • [24:30] Strategies to become more grounded and calm in our bodies

  • [44:40] ‘Seeing’ the system

  • [52:55] Rapid fire questions

I invite you to tune in to this insightful episode and gain further wisdom from Samreen’s expertise. You can find the full transcript on my website, along with more information about Samreen and her work.

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Samreen: And I think there’s nothing more powerful than being in the presence of someone who’s highly regulated, but that regulation takes being. Connected at a very deep level with myself. And so I guess that that’s part of the framing that I encourage my leaders to explore with me. It’s difficult because it can feel conceptual when we’re not connected with ourselves and it can feel like in some sort of utopian ideal when we’re not, or it can feel a bit weird.

Why I’m paid to do a job, you know, I’m paid to ensure that our profitability and our growth and. Our purpose is fulfilled, not to be connected with myself and to know, you know, how I show up and the impact that has. So I think a lot of it is about grounding it in their own reality.

Carolyn: Well, you’re in for a big treat today on Evolve. We have a guest from the UK. Her name is Sam Reen McGregor. Now she’s an executive coach. She’s got, you know, over 25 years of experience. She’s the founder of Turmeric and Turmeric. She wrote a book called Leader Awakened. When I read that book, I felt like I was looking in the mirror.

I felt seen, I felt heard. And to be honest, I thought, wow, she has articulated this notion of conscious leadership in such a beautiful way. Very accessible. And also. Has some great evidence to back it up. So I’m really excited to have Samreen on the show today. We are going to talk about really what does it mean to be a leader awakened and how does that.

integrate with trauma informed leadership. Samreen has a very unique ability to create conditions for leaders to help them stretch beyond their existing capabilities. And so we’re going to hear about her insight, her experience and her beautiful integration between business performance, behavioral change, and embodied consciousness.

I’m really excited for you to hear the rest of this conversation between Samreen and I 

hope you enjoy.

 I’m so excited to welcome you to the show, Samreen. Welcome to Evolve.

Samreen: Thank you. It’s a real pleasure to be here today.

Carolyn: Yeah, now, Samreen, I know that you you and I, this is our first time meeting and your PR team reached out to me and told me about this book called Leader Awakened, and I went through it. I was about two pages in, I’m like, Oh my gosh, Samreen and I need to talk and connect. So I’d love to talk about your book, Leader Awakened, and how it came to be and, and how you put all those wonderful things into practice in your, in your business.

How does that sound?

Samreen: Sounds lovely. Really, really great opportunity to talk to someone who sounds by the sounds of it. I think we were in two different parallel universes experiencing similar things or learning similar things. So, so we’d love that.

Carolyn: So Samreen, why don’t we start off? What inspired you to write Leader Awakened? Maybe some of the events in your life that led up to it, and then we can get into all of the, the juiciness that you put in that book.

Samreen: So gosh, it’s, it’s it’s a lovely question because I do, I do feel that I’ve written many things throughout my life. I’ve actually contributed chapters and I’ve written articles and I’ve also written theoretical content, but this one felt really different and it felt different especially because the idea to write it landed in a moment in my life.

where I was trying to figure things out. I wasn’t sure where I’d come from, where I was going next. I knew, I knew what had happened, but I was trying to make sense of it all. And that cut across my professional life. And I start there because it was probably one of the immediate needs that I was trying to fulfill by writing a book.

But then there was a, a very… clear acknowledgement and realization that, it doesn’t sit in isolation, that, that, that it was very much sitting interwoven with, I was going to say side by side, but actually interwoven with the life experience that I’d had in the, in the previous two, three years.

So it was, it was in, in 2020 I, I. Come up with the idea. And it was three years exactly. After my son, who at the time was nine years old and was diagnosed with a brain tumor and a cancerous brain tumor. And this was at a time where I had my whole. Work life. Yes. Sorry. It is. It’s interesting when you tell the story and, you know, in that, in that sort of connection with you which I’m, I’m very aware and, and, and appreciate that we share.

But we do, we do sometimes tell the story and just even disconnect from the reality of what I’ve just said to you. So thank you for, for, for sort of. Yeah, but just outwardly expressing that. But, and at that moment, I guess it, it, life was good. Life was, it seemed simple. It was, I had, you know, a couple of years order book, a business I’d set up and it’d taken me a few years to, and I’m an entrepreneur, I do executive coaching with individuals and teams.

Before that I’d worked in financial services and then as a consultant. And I was really happy and things just seemed to be really straightforward, even though, you know, clearly, as a mother, there’s, there’s, there’s a number of things that, that

Carolyn: that straightforward.

Samreen: but relatively, it was straightforward, wasn’t it?

And yeah, we got, we had, and I say we, because it was my whole family, it was, It was my, the ecosystem of the people who, who, who I knew and who were in my life at the time. And yeah, it was a major disruption. And that was three years before I decided to write this book. So clearly there was a period of time where we went through a journey.

And I certainly went through a journey. I lost myself. Had to rediscover myself in lots of different ways and lots of connotations and domains. And then this one day I thought, do you know what? I really feel like I want to write a book. It serves a particular purpose in helping me to market and become more selective about the kind of work I want to do.

Because as you can imagine, those three, four years have have shifted quite a lot of what I do and why I do it. And, yeah, I hadn’t realized, and a bit like you, because I’ve been listening to parts of your book, actually, it was very important for me to make myself, to use myself as an instrument to inspire others, but also to help others to see the importance of this kind of work.

but to do it in a really vulnerable and open way. And so that, that was probably enough of the context around why and when.

Carolyn: thank you for sharing all that. I think the context is important and you know, I really resonated when you pause there for a second and said, Oh, right. The, the, the shock of hearing that story about, you know, your son, I’ve experienced a similar reaction where, when I share, you know, just sort of the headline of my story and I like just.

gloss right on and move and people are like, Oh, how did you do it? I’m like, yeah, yeah, no problem. Like we’re all good now. Let’s move on. So I just had a moment with you there where I was like, Oh yeah, I do. I do the same thing. I just kind of like move on thinking like, come on with come on with me.

And I’ve learned to the, just the importance of stopping to acknowledge that and, and to be, to be with someone else in that. So I just, again, I think we’ve had We just kind of are coming at this through a different, a similar lens. Samreen, there was a quote early in your book that there was a few of them.

buT I’m going to start with this one. Ambition comes at a cost, especially when what lies behind overachievement remains hidden. Ambition also has its shadow. And in many workplaces, it is a habit that can be Ruthlessly encouraged and exploited. Those are some very, I mean, I haven’t heard it articulated in a succinct way like that.

 And I’m sure many people listening to this really grapple with ambition and it’s good. And is there really a cost question mark? How did you find just such beautiful ways to put that together and then to lead the reader into the book to describe awakening? Cause that’s not really a corporate word like awakening, right?

Samreen: No, no, nice spot there. And it took me so long to find the right word, the awakening word. But let’s come back first to the first part of your question. Because. It’s, I’m so touched that you’ve picked that up. It’s probably one of the most important, and actually, I didn’t articulate that until after I finished writing the book.

So it’s really interesting that you’ve picked that up. You know, when you’ve written the book and then other things start to come and clarity starts to show itself. And that sentence, and I think that whole page really emerged for me in a super clear way after I’d re read my book about a hundred times and iterated and edited.

And, and so I do think that it’s, it’s important to recognize that and it comes through pain. It comes through, through, and, and, you know, I think many of us, I think you, again, I keep sort of assuming for you, but, but, you know, I, I do think those, those really dark moments where we realize that for good reason and for very genuine and needed reasons, we push ourselves and, you know, if, if we didn’t, as human beings, if we didn’t, You know, adapt as creatures on this planet that, that, that wanted to thrive and, and strive and push ourselves, then, then we wouldn’t be progressing.

You know, there’s clearly a need for, for, for that in, in, in our ability to progress, to evolve. But equally, I think for me personally, you know, the day, I think I was sitting in my kitchen with a puppy. We’d just gotten a puppy. We’d come back from Boston. The kids were finally back at school. My husband who works for a big corporate actually was sort of trying to, you know, re integrate and re establish his reputation and credibility, inner reputation and credibility in a work context after having taken a sabbatical to be with our son.

I going, what am I going to do? I’m broken. I don’t know how I’m going to operate again as a professional. And, and then I realized just over a period of weeks and months, just how ambitious I was and how driven I was and how shameful it felt. That I felt like a real failure. I thought, why can’t I just pick myself back up again?

And I did have, by the way, I had some incredible clients who were so supportive, who, who, who said to me, you know, weeks, months before, rather you know, Invoices now do the work when you get back, it’ll give you something to do. And, you know, in the meantime, anything, any projects that, that, that require your support, if you could, you know, refer others or, or we could find different ways of doing it internally.

 , and then there’s another aspect to it, which is my work with my clients and I have seen many, many clients and having worked in a corporate environment more recently, particularly during the pandemic, I’ve witnessed and been present with a lot of people who do give their souls, who do have an inter Twined sense of identity when it comes to the professional and personal and real self and in a corporate context or in an organizational context.

I witness and work with a lot of people who give up a lot and not question it and they don’t question it and they don’t realize. And I’ve done this myself, by the way, what is this all for? And even after, even after the journey I’d been on. With my son and his cancer and my daughter’s trauma and well all of our trauma.

Carolyn: Well, and that’s what I wanted to ask because, I mean, you talked about ambition having a shadow and by the way, I loved how you started the chapters beaming a light to awaken you. It was beautiful. Is, you know, when you step back, like does the, the ambition side the shadow side of the ambition is that where we have to acknowledge our relationship with trauma?

Samreen: Oh great question So so before I I come to trauma itself I think like any context the aspect of the shadow to me Carries a number of different connotations and I think they’re all relevant and they’re all valid one of the aspects or one of the elements I see in the aspect of the shadow is Is the dark one is the one that’s Undesirable.

And, you know, as personalities, as people, as humans, we carry some of those, negative elements in our shadows. But there’s another one that I think that’s really important, which is the unknown. It’s the one that we don’t… See, we might feel, and sometimes the feelings are a reflection of deep unconscious factors.

And that, for me, is a part of the aspect of the shadow that I think we don’t speak enough about or explore enough. I mean, we do, I think we might do in therapy, but we don’t tend to. use it as an opportunity to shine a light and, and learn from, and let’s come with that. Let me just come back to ambition.

And I think personally, and you’ll, you’ll, you will have read this in the book. I talk a lot about the shadow of my ambition, the intergenerational impact of my parents, you know, my father an incredible. Man who eldest son of a Muslim family growing up in Agra in India and goes to engineering college and then gets a full scholarship to take a boat over to California and study at Stanford and do his master’s and then eventually does his PhD there. You know, this is in the 1950s, you know, this is right before the partition, and actually a fairly, not, not, not a poor, poor family, but you know, a family that’s very, very stretched and his mother didn’t work, obviously, and, and his father, and his father did, but it was a huge family, so they were not well to do, and then they, they had to move and migrate to Pakistan, and then, My mother, which is an incredibly inspirational story for me personally as a woman, and my ambition has certainly got its roots in this the, the, the eldest daughter in a family of nine brothers and sisters as well, and Catholic growing up in the Andes mountains in Venezuela.

And her father was not at all encouraging of her studying, but she was. 100 percent not, you know, fully determined, not taking no for an answer and her mother did support her. Eventually, she studied, progressed her studies and found that there was a gap in students who wanted or knew anything about studying statistics.

So she joined this very small group of… Mainly male students and applied and got a master’s full time scholarship to go to Stanford. And that’s where she met my dad, didn’t speak a word of English. So you see these stories, this intergenerational story for me, which I, again, until I wrote the book, if I’m honest, having done a lot of therapy work my lifetime, I hadn’t put two and two together.

You know, when you write, you suddenly start to realize certain things start

Carolyn: yeah, I said that.

Samreen: was, that was the. Did that happen for you?

Carolyn: Yeah, well, I said it’s, it’s, it was therapy writing this book my book started out actually as a letter. It was called the perfect widow and it was a letter to my boys about how I tried to raise them after their dad died and I submitted the 60, 000 words to the publisher and then realized. Oh, my gosh, this is a hot mess for a whole lot of reasons.

And a really dear friend coach of mine asked me some really helpful questions that made me realize there was more in there that could serve the audience that I’d been working with for years. And, and from there it, it evolved that’s how the title came it evolved into what does this look like in the workplace?

And I wasn’t going to put the word trauma in the title, right? So I’ve called it the path to trauma informed leadership. And I really thought about that word carefully. I wanted to be very explicit with it, which was different. I appreciated the subtleties of your book that you didn’t put the word front and center but in fact, you’re working at it and it’s at the core of everything.

And for me, I thought, Oh, I’m just going to be bold and throw it out there. Cause as somebody who worked in, you know, 20 years, I was like, Oh, that word debt, that doesn’t apply to me. And so I felt that, you know, my book could help compliment You know, a book like yours, although I hadn’t seen yours at the time to really help come at it from different angles.

Right? I think we all need to hear it in different ways. So, so I was, yeah, I was just really taken. I didn’t realize there was a shadow to the work side of things.

Samreen: Yeah, and, well, look, Carolyn, you’ve said a few things there that I just, just, just to respond rather than to, but, but, you know, I, I had a lot of dilemmas around the use of the terminology around trauma in the title, even in the book, and part of the reason, you’ve just described it beautifully, but part of the reason is because I think the existence of trauma, although it Very much here and real it, it carries connotations and it carries associations that, that as you, I, you know, this already, we both know this, that, that tends to, to sort of trigger a shutdown or a, or a barrier or a, or a, a rejection.

I was having a, a conversation with just a colleague of mine who, who I know very well recently, and I made mention of dissociation. in a number of generic contexts. And then we started getting into it with him. And I had the shutdown. And this is someone who I’ve worked with for a long time and who even loves the content of the book and, has loved learning for me.

But I can see that reaction. It’s such a natural reaction. And I really appreciate that you’ve put, and it’s interesting because that language, I noticed it when I saw your book and the, the title of it. And also the. the structure and the construct of it. And it’s lovely the way you said they complement each other because one’s more of a self reflective inner, another is actually naming and really, really bringing some concretization to it, which I think together, they’re a wonderful compliment to each other.

But it’s, it is, it is a gentle road, isn’t it? It’s a very, very soft and gentle road.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. And, and, you know, awakening, how did you get to that word? And, and like, let’s talk a little bit for people that maybe are, are listening like, oh, awakening, oh, I don’t have time to awaken. I got too many things to do, . So, you know, therein lies like that shadow. So I’d love to hear a little bit about like how you work with clients to help guide them into.

This next stage, we won’t even use the big a word. But like into this sort of next stage of leadership where they do awaken to some other things that they might not have known about themselves.

Samreen: Yeah, a really, really important consideration, I would say, given what we’ve just said about barriers and, and, and perhaps a less conscious understanding of the importance of, of some of this work. And I won’t say the A word, but so, so I’ll, I’ll answer both questions. The first one was when I was trying to come up with a title and I was into this, should we be using trauma?

Should we not all, you know, all this stuff and then something in the middle. And, and actually I was talking to someone who helped me also with the cover of the book and the imagery and. I started speaking about what it felt like at a particular phase, which is actually it, it features in chapter six of when I came back and I referenced it today in this, in this conversation as well, and I was trying to find myself and I use the word awakening.

I said, it was a bit like I’ve been awakened. And, and as we were talking and I was telling this story and actually it wasn’t even a direct you know, interpretation in any way. And he said, Joe, that’s, that’s that word you’ve just used. Do you notice the word you just used? I said, no, what word did I use?

And then he said it. That’s exactly what I do with my clients. That’s exactly. And in fact, if I’m using myself as an instrument. There’s a parallel process going on here. And so perhaps there’s something here. So that was, that was the, that, that was where that, that word came from. But I think that you, you mentioned something really important here and, and quite, quite challenging.

And I picked it up again. This is one of the things that I get sort of. interlaced after having finished writing most of the book. And it’s the concept that many of us, and perhaps I noticed this after my son’s illness and all the changes that we made as, as a family and I made as a woman is that we do sleepwalk through life a lot of the time.

Because we’re so busy,

Carolyn: Yes.

Samreen: we’re so caught up in the rhythm, because despite really clear intentions to notice the patterns that of our life the choices we make the mistakes we make and even… The disgruntlement, you know, when we’re not happy and I know I often have a conversation with my husband More so recently actually in the last couple of years where I go, I’m not feeling happy.

I’m not feeling fulfilled But everything’s going well, what’s going on? Why is that happening? And typically it’s because I haven’t stopped To notice the patterns and one of the things that I’ve been doing very, very quite actually very disciplined way is I’ve been trying to do embodied work. So body yoga or embodied, you know, mindful activities like breath work.

And yeah, which is goodness. Hasn’t it been? I mean, it’s certainly been revolutionary for me. It’s not easy.

Carolyn: Yeah,

Samreen: patience and, you know, when we’re ambitious, we need to slow down and stop striving. So that’s not an easy process to go through.

Carolyn: let’s, let’s just stop and appreciate that for a second because this morning I, it’s a struggle every day. Let’s just, it’s, it’s, I feel like there is just old patterns. I don’t want to say resistance, but in a way there is resistance. But you know, I joined a group this morning at 8am to do 20 minutes of breathing and practice.

She calls it a practice. So we’re tuning in for 20 minutes of practice, which helps me make it seem like well, like a sport, if I’m being honest, cause I grew up, you know, being sporty and that sort of thing. And, and so it helps me take sort of the woo woo out of it. And. Then I did 10 minutes of somatic like exercises and really learning to get into, like, to feel my body versus, and you’ve used this word already, Samreen as an instrument.

So I had another podcast guest recently. She’s a professor in San Diego. And she used the saying, use your body as an instrument, not an ornament. And so when I’m doing these embodied practices, I’m really focusing on. instrument, not ornament. Like my body’s not an ornament to carry my head around and use all these great things.

And so I really, that was the other piece again in the book. I’m like, Oh my gosh, Samreen and I feel like it’s a mother, a sister from another mister or whatever, however that saying goes. But that’s really hard to get into our body and find that embodiment. Wow. Yep.

Samreen: It is. I really love the way You, a, you, you’re noticing the connection between how you get motivated or you have been motivated throughout your life and, you know, sport being a particular piece there. But, but I think, you know, having to find ways of recreating that in a new practice is. It, it, just like anything, I mean, I think if either of us were to go and study aeronautical engineering, we’d have to relearn and we’d have to let go.

And that just takes time. But I think from an embodied perspective, it’s even tougher because in my experience, and certainly through my studies and my research and my work with people, our bias to much more on our cognitive Capacities and thinking is far higher. So having to do something that helps us see and think and analyze and work out, but feel at a very deep level and doing that thing in, in, in synchronicity is, is that’s in that in its own right is a whole new capability that I think we’re just starting to learn in the Western world.

Eastern cultures have been doing this kind of stuff for a long time. And, you know, I’m embarrassed to say I’m, I’m half Indian and I haven’t actually, I mean, I have meditated, but I haven’t adopted some of those very sophisticated, although they wouldn’t say it’s sophisticated practices. And one thing I am going to share this because, you know, she’s amazing.

So I, I, I joined a similar to you, but it’s, it’s, it’s a yoga. It’s a, it’s very embodied. Actually. She’s also a trauma specialist. I learned later. I didn’t even realize she did this, but so she helps us in our yoga to, she reads. beautiful poems and pieces by Mark Nepo. I don’t know whether you’ve read this wonderful book it’s called Finding Inner Courage, and she reads these, while we’re in a very difficult, painful, quite resistant posture, trying to align ourselves and notice The transition that we’re making.

So she’s connecting some of the cognitive ability because, because let’s face it. That’s what we’ve been trained to do through our schooling. And she’s helping us to push ourselves in ways. But interestingly, a very good example is when I’m in a position where I’m really struggling, mainly because of bad habitual posture or habits of how I hold my hips or whatever it might be.

She’s, she’s. Bringing to the conscious when we’re striving and when we’re allowing. So in that moment, we’re having to reflect on that, the micro process of being ambitious and striving versus allowing and letting go whilst we’re experiencing the sensation. It’s extraordinary. 

Carolyn: Can I ask a question about yoga, since we’re talking about embodied practices, I have never found any joy, any desire to do yoga at all. Zero. And I do think that it has everything to do with the fact that I cut my body off from my head. And my ability to go into those positions or find any sort of Comfort or relief in it was directly related to the amount of trauma, unresolved trauma that I was carrying.

So here’s, here’s a hypothesis cause I still don’t do yoga by the way, like that group that I joined. It’s Lynn Frazier. She’s, she’s amazing. It’s very much. Learning how to feel things in your body. So, just learning how to attune and recognize signs in your body. It’s kind of like literacy, like basic literacy.

I’m learning like the ABCs. And then this, I have this other app that I use to help me do some stretches that They haven’t called it yoga. I’m going to guess that it is yoga, but because they’re called somatic exercises and it’s just a lot more gentle. I had this aha this morning. I thought, Oh, maybe I could do yoga.

So here’s my question for you. Cause it sounds like you’ve done yoga. Can people do yoga for just the sake of doing it to say, check, check, check. I’ve done it. And like, is there a difference between that and like truly embodying what yoga is meant to be?

Samreen: Wow, what a question, Karen. What a question. So, and I love it. I like that. Very, very, very cool. So, so look, there’s a couple of things I want to say. One, one thing is this. I want to empathize with you first about not enjoying yoga. And the reason why I want to empathize with you about that first, and that will frame my answer is because interestingly, whenever I tried yoga, I felt unfulfilled because over the years, my whole goal was doing any exercise or sport was about achievement.

And I found it really hard to achieve some of these things. It was really driving me up the wall. I remember doing this. I can’t remember what it’s called this pigeon pose thing and everybody else was able to do it and I felt like a complete and utter loser because I couldn’t do it and I thought why can I not do this and I’ve worked hard enough.

I’ve done it now for three months and I still can’t do this and with other sports and other things I’ve got to measure and I could turn and particularly me because I am a total So, Adrenaline junkie, junkie when it comes to being in, in an ex, you know, in any type of exercise. And I do, I do strength training.

I do weight lifting. I’ve got very clear measures as to how much I’m lifting. And equally with my running. So I just want to empathize with that because I think actually that was the moment I disconnected achievement from my practice of yoga and why I’m doing it. Everything changed. And I’m gonna be really honest with you, it literally changed in the last year.

And the reason why it changed, and there’s a really, really… Evidence-based reason for this is be, I’ve always struggled with my weight. I’ve been, I’m, you know, sort of halfen as well. I’m not sort of, I am halfen as well and, and my family. My mom’s family has always had a sort of genetic predisposition with weight.

I’m extremely healthy. Can you imagine with, with what we’ve gone through as a family, you know, we avoid sugar, we avoid gluten and dairy. We have incredibly nutritious, and my son’s actually become quite an avid cook, but I really struggled and now I’m going through perimenopause. I’ve just been diagnosed again with thyroid hyperthyroidism, lots of clinical and, I’m going through perimenopause and then I’ve also got high adrenal load.

So very high stress levels that, and again, that goes hand in hand with, with my ambition still there, by the way. So anyway, long story short, over the last couple of years, I was at a gym and I was Driving myself to the ground at times doing two, three workouts, two workouts a day, you know, five, six a week, I was on a, some sort of Olympic competition with various other people and got incredibly competitive.

And I think that’s, what’s brought about some of my autoimmune. disease again. It’s because it’s an additional stressor. The day I realized that actually I have been, and by the way, this has been in parallel to writing my book. So even though I’ve been talking about all this stuff, I hadn’t even realized that the exercise I was doing was actually going against everything I was.

You know, really talking about. So the moment I realized this is slightly fraudulent when I’m doing here, I need to change something. And that’s when yoga came into my life properly because before they’ve been failed attempts. So I want to come back to your question, which is, can you do the tick, tick, tick, tick, tick?

Personally, I think that’s what I was doing. And like five, six years ago, and it wasn’t doing anything for me. And in fact, it was just frustrating me. And I was using a completely disconnected set of measures for the, A, the value I was getting out of it and B, how much fulfillment and happiness I was getting or joy I was getting from it.

Now I, when I do yoga, it’s happened a few times recently. I mean, you would find this fascinating, but it, triggers a lot of emotion. It’s happened twice now. I’ve literally cried out of not even feeling anything. It’s just pent up traumatic memory coming out of my body, which has been quite surprising actually.

And it’s encouraging me to slow down and it’s encouraging me to really take the space and time. And just to finish that up, one of the commitments I’ve made with myself is. Two mornings a week, I go to the special yoga studio, which is in the middle of the woods, not far from here, but it’s about 20 minutes drive.

There’s no phone reception anywhere. So I can’t be looking at emails or text messages. I literally go into the yoga studio hour and a half and I’m back here by 1130. So every Monday morning and every Friday morning, it’s my practice.

Carolyn: Wow. That’s, that’s going to be question number two. You’ve just answered question number two when we end off the podcast. You’re, you’re really like this conversation is really, I think bringing to life what it means to live with our body or sort of have our body as an appendage versus Living within our body

Samreen: Hmm.

Carolyn: and that to me is such a transformative way of looking at leadership that the leaders who can live within their body are by far in a way, the leaders that we need in this world in this, like, in every aspect of life.

And I’m curious, like, I’m curious what strategies or what things you do with your clients that help them because in essence, when we live within our bodies, we are going to send signals to everyone around us that we’re calm, we’re grounded, you know, telling the other person’s brain, Hey, we’re safe. What strategies do you use with your clients or what work do you do with your clients to help them embody this work?

Samreen: Yeah. It’s and, and, you know, I think I really. I really appreciate the question and I think it’s such an important question at this moment in time the, the world we live in is, is, is full of volatility, uncertainty, and those who we lead. And who we have a disproportionate impact on as leaders are very affected at a very micro level by how regulated we are.

So I couldn’t, I couldn’t appreciate this question more strongly. And I think there’s nothing more powerful than being in the presence of someone who’s highly regulated. buT that regulation takes being connected at a very deep level with myself. And so I guess that that’s part of the framing that I encourage my leaders to explore with me.

It’s difficult because it can be, it can feel conceptual when we’re not connected with ourselves. And it can feel like in some sort of utopian ideal when we’re not, or it can feel a bit weird. Why I’m paid to do a job. You know, I’m paid to ensure that our profitability and our growth and our purpose is, is fulfilled, not to be connected with myself and to know you know, how I show up and the impact that has, so I think a lot of it is about.

grounding it in their own reality. It’s less difficult these days because so many of my clients tend to be either rushed off their feet, actually living with compromises and finding it very painful.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Samreen: I don’t know about you, but I’m also hearing more and more, I mean, you and I are two examples, but you know, of leaders or clients themselves or the loved ones and their health being impacted.

And. It isn’t that difficult to start to correlate or at least find some level of causality in, in, in the research actually around what does having high levels of cortisol streaming through our bodies that is, that are only designed to, to carry that load. When we’re stressed, but when we’re chronically stressed, that cortisol is actually damaging tissues and damaging our immune systems and bringing on autoimmune diseases or damaging, you know, our organs and It’s it becomes quite an easy conversation to have with someone when they start to see those connections That’s the why that’s the I think the coming back to what we were just talking about is the embodied answer Which is you know?

Really getting a sense of what’s going on for them, what’s current, what’s relevant, what’s in the moment, and often in my experience, when we start getting into some of the dilemmas that they’re experiencing, some of the undesirable effects that they’re living with, it’s taking those little things bit by bit.

And helping them to make sense of and resource them with what to do. So there’s a really great example of a, of a, of a client. Actually, I mentioned this one in the book and something recent happened with a different client. I just think this other one is, it was so palpable. It was brilliant. Brilliant, brilliant, but not in equal measures.

Extremely fit, young. dRiven highly respected board member of a large multi billion pound Dutch business, but global business. And he started getting a sort of paralytic effect on his face. And he, he obviously went and tried to get this checked and it kept recurring and he didn’t get an immediate diagnosis, but in the end it was, it was, it was a result, it was a you know, effective stress.

So they said, look, you’re going to just have to stop completely do nothing for weeks, which for someone like that, who’s. You know, almost addicted to the, to, to the activity and, and, and those, those, you know, hits of getting things done and making an impact and being rewarded for it. Well, and then, so that was when I started working with him and he was someone that, you know, we, we had to look at various domains in his life that were impacted by.

him being ill and not well in the moment, but then what would that look like over time? And importantly, how that would impact his passion, which is the work he did. He loved it. So finding a way to co exist. And actually do it in a way that’s regulated, that’s, that’s monitored and where he has agency and he can make choices rather than coming back to the sleepwalking through life, where he’s able to really impart some, some choices and values.

It became part of the contract. And interestingly, he’s been promoted since he’s now moved into one of the main businesses rather than the, the, the parent business. He’s got an even bigger role. But he regulates that and manages it in a way that’s far more choiceful and agentic.

Carolyn: You know, I’m so, I can so relate with that. I mean, there’s so much in what you said there is sleepwalking or sleep running or sleep speed running, speed walking. We think we’re in control. And, and I, I know I did this for several, several years, thought I was in control. And when, when I was approached, it was my mom actually, who started the intervention and I still remember where I was in that moment.

And she said, you know, you don’t know what’s going on around you. And this was about four years into. Paul’s illness. So the boys were like, you know, two and three, maybe three and four. And I know two and three, I was like, I know exactly what’s going on around me. And my resistance, my defiance to that statement was so strong and powerful.

And I look back and I think, Oh, whoa, like, hello, like red flag. That was a red flag. And you know, the boys tell me. They’re like, mom, do you remember when we used to jump on the refrigerator and the nanny couldn’t get us down? And I was like, no, they’re like, yeah, you were right there when it happened.

And I’m literally like, I’m like that, that never happened. They’re like, oh yeah, no, it used to happen all the time. So there’s an example of, of that resistance, that defiance. And, and I was so, I was just so on overdrive and the power of like what you said with your client, when you have more agency. Not false agency that I thought I had in that case, but real agency over like being within your body.

It’s pretty powerful. I mean, look what happened to that client of yours getting promoted to a bigger a bigger role with more impact on the business and on people. And that’s the piece of, you know, people like you and I are trying to help leaders find is that. It’s, it’s, you know, go slow to go fast.

You know, some of these sayings that I think we say, but we don’t actually embody. So that, that was a really useful example to share.

Samreen: And, and Carolyn, I think there’s two things just to respond to one. So, I want to come back to the, your, your, your kiddies telling, telling you that they remembered something that you don’t, because goodness, that happens to me a lot, particularly over the last few years, but, but one point now is you and I are trying to enable and many others, by the way, so many others that I’m coming across now, trying to enable and resource people to slow down.

to do more to speed up or to, you know, sometimes it’s speed. Sometimes it’s do more. Sometimes it’s have a greater impact. But I think the, the erroneous assumption is that. We want to just throw the baby out with bathwater and just stop that is something I certainly wouldn’t want to I absolutely love my work and in fact, I’ve got tendencies and patterns of sometimes going overboard.

And I think, you know, life is it’s a complex system isn’t it? It’s statistical fluctuations. It’s ups and downs. But there’s got to be some level of regulation in there and, and, and, and conscious and, and, and not controlled, but you know, yeah, a gen tech regulation and, and having that ability to, to make choices and being clear about why and when something isn’t serving us.

So, so I do think it’s, it’s important to note that because you, you, you pretty much said it, but I just wanted to highlight it. But the other thing I wanted to say really quickly is I think, you know, your, your whole point about the. kids on the fridge and telling you that, you know, you were, you were in overdrive, but you were also having to disconnect from, you know, it’s interesting you, you made this point earlier as well with the yoga, but we, you know, like me, we’ve had to disconnect and we’ve had to numb ourselves from some of

Carolyn: Yep.

Samreen: what was going on in the moment, you know, whether that was painful or whether that was just, and even those joyful moments or, or even, you know, the kids doing something that we haven’t even known because.

That was what enabled you to get through that. And that dissociation is so important. It’s a skill. It’s actually a survival tactic. But actually noticing it and looking back and seeing what happened and helping others, our kids, as well as those peers around us to notice that these are some of the things we use to navigate.

The challenges are, it is critical.

Carolyn: Yeah. Oh, thank you. I had never, I had never really thought about it in those terms, but that’s exactly it. I, I became a master. I became a master at it cause you just, you just had to do it to get, to get by. I have one other question. I mean, I think you and I could talk for hours hours upon hours.

There, there was one other piece that I didn’t get to fully in your book, but it really resonated with me. And it, it, the chapter was called seeing the system. And I know for me. I thought, you know, I, I was always the tomboy, I hate that term, but you know, I could beat guys on whatever, choose whatever sport through all of it to elementary school, even into high school.

Once, you know, our bodies started to change, there were still even some, some kids, some boys that I could beat in, in sport. And I thought that I, and it competitive, ambitious, and I’m like, I am going to beat the boys at everything. And so my whole mantra became, I’m going to beat anyone who tries to tell me that I can’t do it.

And what I didn’t realize is I was trying to beat people in a system without realizing that there was a system and that there was another choice. And Hey, I could just go take my, go take my ball and go play in a different system, so to speak. So I’m curious what, what you have to say about that and how that relates into becoming awakened.

Samreen: So, gosh, what it, what it, I guess it’s a very multifaceted question and I think obviously I’m picking up some tones around the gender difference being a part of that system, certainly in the stories that you tell, tell, and in, you know, if you, if you go through the, that chapter in particular, but actually the rest of the book also picks up on some of these themes.

It’s, it’s standing back and looking at the whole system and noticing the interconnections between various factors in that system, gender being one of them power being another. And of course, then there’s interconnections between gender and power. Legitimacy in a corporate context is, you know, who, who, who has the legitimacy to either to lead or to get paid more or to have more influence or to Possess the most important relationships.

And, and so these are various aspects that I try to highlight in, in a short chapter, actually, I think there’s a whole new book on this by the way, at some point, but, but that really helps. I personally. Feel it helps me. It certainly helps a lot of the clients that I work with using a systemic lens, using that for, you know, standing back, look at the interrelationships rather than just the entities, the categories that, you know, within any context, whether it’s a corporate context, whether it’s a school system, whether it’s a you know, hospital, I’ve worked in a lot of sort of health sector organizations as well, and noticing that some of these interrelationships can be very, very.

messy, but there is an inherent simplicity in there. And it is incredibly helpful when we can try to decipher the, some, some of the the outcomes and whether they’re good or bad. So desirable or undesirable outcomes that stem from those relationships that live within the system. Now, coming back to your example, you know, this Need to either beat someone at their own get at their own game or at a game that whose rules perhaps don’t apply to you it’s noting noticing some of those interrelationships and then having a discussion about it and Being able to highlight the fact that there is an impartiality here You know that there is a differential

Carolyn: Hmm.

Samreen: and I think for so many years we’ve lived with the implicit rules of the system or whatever the system, whether it’s gender based, whether it’s, you know, I, I, in the book, I also talk a lot about some of the cross cultural race, racial aspects, you know, what, what are the hidden rules that we don’t talk about?

And that’s where I think the systemic perspective can be. Actually, very healing. One of the big points I bring out in my book is that by taking a step back and looking at the system, noticing the interrelationships and not saying that there’s one particular cause. it takes away something that is a lot easier, which is to blame. And instead it’s more about being curious about why, why were there different rules to the game? You know, a hundred, 200, 300 years ago, thousands of years ago. Where did that come from? And was there a validity in it? Maybe, maybe, maybe not. Where are we now? And why are there different conditions? That mean that we need to re, you know, shuffle up the, the, the rules of the game rather than to say the rules of the game are wrong and look how we’re a victim to them.

That for me is really important. Reframe that I think systemic perspectives, framers and skills really give us is such a gift.

Carolyn: Oh, it’s, I love, I love the way you’ve articulated that. Cause that’s, that’s sort of the journey that I went on was to understand sort of the history. And I got curious and, and, you know, I am, gender has been sort of that. That lens for me, and now going back and understanding some of the history, it certainly has helped me understand and then given me much more ability to have compassion and empathy and curiosity about the intersectionality that other people have.

With, you know, different types of their identity. So, there’s that agency. There’s that agency. Again, once I pulled myself out, I didn’t even realize I was, I was sort of coming at it from a victim, like, perspective. And again, I think all of this circles around to. This awakening word and, and learning how to really take that agency to stop sleepwalking, sleep, running, insert, whatever word conscious, unconscious but really to allow ourselves to see this other side and, and, you know, Awaken, integrate I use the word integrate a lot because our, our world really is at a state where we’re kind of, I, this is probably isn’t the most eloquent way of saying it, but we’re kind of done with that type of leadership, right?

Like, we don’t, we don’t want to hear the, the voice talking at us. We want to be with other people and we really want us to be seen and heard.

Samreen: absolutely. And some of the effects that we’re living with now are these fractiles that are so fragmented and polarised, and in fact, what you’re saying, it’s interesting, the word integration was going to be a part of my title, the title of this book as well, by the way, so we’re so on the same wave. But integrating and actually just living with and being with, even when we don’t like it, actually sometimes we need to be with things we don’t like.

and just stay with it. You know, it doesn’t mean you need to become best friends with it and live with it forever, but it’s absolutely the, yes, the, the way in which we can make sense and, and find that integration. a world that needs it so much right now.

Carolyn: Oh, yeah, yeah. Samreen, where could our listeners find out more about your work your book, any other wonderful things that you’re up to?

Samreen: Oh, thank you for asking that question I’d love for people to to become Curious and and and obviously pick up and read the book. there’s a website turmeric group calm Where within it? There’s also a leader awakened co. uk Website page. It’s got loads of loads of articles as well, all relating to the book.

And then there’s, there’s a link where it’ll take you to either Amazon or any of the other retailers globally where you can get the book itself. And also Turmeric Group offers some view as to the kind of work we do in a one to one coaching, team coaching and a number of other other offerings that we have there.

Carolyn: Great. Oh, thank you. We’ll make sure to put those links in, in our show notes. And before we close off, Samreen, I always ask our guests three questions. Are you, are you game for those?

Samreen: Of course I am. Absolutely.

Carolyn: All right. 

So the first question has to do with self awareness, which I know we’ve talked an awful lot about today. Is there, is there a, a perspective, an anecdote that you can share with us where your self awareness went to a whole new level? Maybe it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Maybe it was, but Mmm.

Samreen: I touched a little bit on this earlier when, when it came to the the shift in how I exercise and, and, and, and look after my body. But I think the, the bigger frame around that is after my family went through this, this, you know, fairly, You know, torturous journey with my son’s cancer.

I realize that self awareness goes a hell of a lot deeper than my personality. My, you know, what, what others see in us, the blind spots, everything that, by the way. It’s fundamental to the work I do with organizations but there is definitely, I feel like I’ve been scratching the surface and I think just to, just to really bring this to life over the summer, I went to a amazing festival called the Medicine Festival.

In the UK and it’s held in Reading in just west of London. And it is a really extraordinary event where indigenous leaders from indigenous tribes, wisdom keepers from all over the world come, come around and they teach us about how indigenous communities live. And how they look after. the environment and how they connect with one another.

And I spent three days there with my daughter, who’s 13, and we went to workshops and, and I suddenly realized that there’s a whole spiritual level connected to the planet as well as to just that inner connection that you and I have explored today that I learned from those wisdom keepers that I had no idea existed.

And again, I’m, I’m sort of. being half Venezuelan. I’m thinking, how did I miss that? Coming to 50 and not actually having had experience of that. So that’s a whole level of self awareness that I am about to tap into.

Carolyn: Wow. Wow. That’s amazing. When is that festival? What time of year?

Samreen: Festival is held in August. I think the dates next year have been announced. But I don’t, I don’t have them at the top of my head, but it’s usually the second or third week in August. And I’m more than happy to send you a link because it’s fascinating

Carolyn: Yes. I think we should put that link in the show notes too. Sounds wonderful. 

so The second question you sort of answered already but we’ll see if there’s some other wisdom in there. And this has to do with a ritual or a practice that you, you use to help you stay regulated.

Samreen: Yes. So I’ve, I’ve done a lot of breath work recently. So it might be something similar to what you were describing earlier and it, it enables me to very quickly over oxygenate my My brain, my nervous system, and quite quickly enter into what I would call a state of altered consciousness. And it could be as short as 15, 20 minutes, and it could be as long as an hour and a half.

And… It’s something that I try to do at least once, if not twice a week, and once a month I definitely do the long version, but I, it enables me to just release some of those tensions, and you know, in a very sort of strange way, it also can help me to release some of the emotions. It is very strange.

Feeling when you do it. I’m about to go and train in it to become a practitioner in November But yes, it’s become something that really helps because as soon as I’m done with it I feel like my nervous system has gone straight into that parasympathetic state and I’m calm and Yeah, it’s been very very helpful.

Carolyn: What’s it what’s it called Samreen?

Samreen: So it’s breath work breath work And there are lots of different

styles Yes, W O R K, yeah. Breathwork. Yes.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Samreen: But it’s 

Carolyn: Mm

Samreen: I mean, there’s, you I could probably give you more information on it after November, because I will be training in it rather than following someone who’s teaching it.

Carolyn: Sounds good. Now, our last question has to do with co regulation or really feeling connected to something bigger than yourself. So when we’re in that regulated state, we obviously can co regulate better. What, and I choose to, to bring this question to light through music. Cause I find that music can connect people in a beautiful way.

What is a song or genre of music that makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself?


So it’s probably a genre rather than a song, I mean, there’s too many but I love that initially it would, it would, it would have been called the chill out sort of that those Ibiza type tunes that, that use quite sort of world fusion music. But recently again, coming out of the festival, I’ve learned that there is a whole genre of indigenous music that uses instruments.

And again, fuse fuses quite a few instruments and and sounds actual natural sounds. And It reminds me, yeah, it’s just a sort of coming back to your word, integration. It integrates me at a very, very profound level. I listen to it when I walk the dogs. I really try to force myself. Sometimes I’m, I’m always listening to books or podcasts, but I actually now I’m really trying to, I say the word force myself, it sounds quite strong, but I try to really encourage myself to, to contemplate and to stop trying to learn and just be.

And that music is very

Carolyn: Hmm. Wow. I know I’ve listened to chill. I’ve on like a playlist chill music. I’m going to check, I’m going to check out medicine, medicinal music, maybe, and see what comes up for that. But some of those like deeper sounds or ringing bowls. Singing Bulls.

Samreen: lovely. Yeah. Yes.

Carolyn: Yeah. Wow. Samreen, thank you so much for coming on the show. Please thank Judith for reaching out to me. I’m, I’m just really so glad to be in connection with you and I encourage the listeners to please pick up Samreen’s book. Hey, two for one, you know what? If you pick up Samreen’s book, send me a note and I’ll send you a copy of mine as well.

I think they’re a great combination. 

Samreen, any last words or things you want to share with the audience?

Samreen: Well, slow down, breathe. And yes, I think look for the light. Sounds a little bit corny, but it’s okay to awaken ourselves, even when it can be uncomfortable.

Carolyn: Thank you so much for coming on the show. Sam rain. Have a great day.

Well, what did you think of that episode? There was something Samreen said, I wrote it down when we were talking which is living with compromises. And that’s my question. My question for you is what compromises are you living with? What compromises are you leading with? And maybe it’s not something you’re ready to say out loud, but.

There’s probably a voice that is whispering it inside of you and I hope through this conversation with Samarine you have Maybe learned to acknowledge those voices. Maybe you’ve learned a few things to help you articulate Those voices but at the end of the day, I hope you realize The power of leading in life and at work is to accept the other side, the not so good side and find some way to integration or awakening as Samreen shared with us.

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please consider listening to more. Also, if you could like and subscribe, even rate of review, that would help me out a lot and get this content out to more people. And as always, if you would like to do any work with me or like to learn more about what I do, you can find out more at carolynswara.

com. Thanks for tuning in everyone. We’ll see you next time. 

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