I am well. I am here. I’m willing to help if needed. YOU need only ask.

It is time to write to you again. If I have remained silent in the last while it is because the turbulence of things got to me too.

I have made it through my own small storm to settle in the peace on the other side. And that peace is acceptance of what is. And gratitude for all of the miracles continuing to manifest.

Firstly, please know that I am safe and sound in a small hamlet near Gap, in the French Alps. I am more than OK, I am thriving. With nature, the forest and the mountains at my doorstep and the windows of my little hut which welcome in the Eastern morning sun – I am blessed. I am with a good family, and I have children around me, and WOW children are so much more practiced than most of us adults at living in the present moment. My previous volunteer exchange (more info here on how I create mini-retirements for myself) has simply been adapted to the new circumstances. I’m staying for longer than initially planned. It’s spring here so there’s plenty to do!

I help out in the housework and the garden-work as needed, and since the girls can’t go to school or to their regular extra curricular activities, I help when I can with teaching them English, piano and guitar. I was taught music in the anglo-saxon way (A+ major, D- minor and so on) and so I don’t know much about do, re, mi, fa, so, la system used by the French, but we make do. Rhythm is universal. So is slowing down and taking apart the more difficult parts of a musical piece before putting it all back together again. Staying disciplined and moving forward step by step is also the international language of learning. And so, day by day, we are finding our own new tempo of life. We may also be creating our own family theater production.. but more on that later 🙂

In terms of material tools I have everything that I need. Yummy, nutritious food, oodles of fresh bread and cheese (ha! the French!) and a warm, cozy bed. A wood-burning stove for when the evenings get chilly. A great Internet connection allowing me to feel close to loved ones. Books galore, paper to draw on, paper to write on, tissues to cry into if needed.

Internally, I also have everything that I need. Every retreat, every meditation, every yoga practice, every spiritual book, every single time that I have had the courage to be comfortable with the uncomfortable is now serving me more than ever. Oh yes!! My online habits of learning and creating and money-earning also serve me well. My travel and other work plans pre lock-down were disrupted, yes, and once I made my peace with these changes it feels like it’s back to square one.

And square one is also answering, yet again, the question: What can I do to serve others?

It turns out I’ve got quite a few skills and perspective-altering practices to share with you. Do you need these skills? Do you want to learn about them? Do you know how you want to experience this home-isolation? Do you want it to be a time of creativity? of peace?  of learning? or are you letting yourself get carried away in the panic and media frenzy?

Here are some topics that immediately come to mind:

1. Self-knowledge – understanding your inner world. Let’s connect about:

  • starting a meditation practice
  • starting your own yoga practice
  • what is mindfulness and how to practice this
  • managing difficult emotions (such as fear, anxiety, etc.)

2. Learning online. Chat to me about:

  • what do I want to learn and how do I find the course
  • how to stay motivated and disciplined
  • how and why online courses can add to your skillset (both professional and personal)

3. Earning money online. I’m happy to share about:

  • what is upwork.com and how does it work
  • what kind of work can I do online?
  • is working remotely for me? why or why not? (personality types and compatibility)
  • pros and cons of working online

4. Working remotely from home for the first time:

  • balancing structure and flow in your day – how to do this?
  • staying motivated and self-disciplined
  • keeping the feeling of connection with colleagues and direct-reports strong
  • using technology to aid (and not to hinder) you in your work

Why me? I’m a certified yoga instructor and coach. I’m also a manager and an entrepreneur. I move between many worlds and cultures (private sector, NGO sector, freelance online work) so I have a pretty good understanding of different professional and work contexts. I have over 10 years experience learning, practicing and implementing points 1, 2, 3 and 4 above. Because I am willing to share and I want to share this with you. Because I’m deeply committed to wellness and to compassionate leadership.

This is what I can do. It is an open offer – take it or leave it – it is OK either way! I have experience in these fields, and it’s something I naturally share about with the people I meet, all around the world, all the time. Except that recently my social gatherings got squished to zero 😉 (as did yours, I know) and so now I’m opening this up to the online sphere. I’m also aware that many of you have had less practice with the above topics, and you may need a hand. I get it. I really do.

FYI – I also work in Polish and in French. My Spanish is a bit rusty, but I’ll make an extra effort 😉

So please also share with your international friends.

Contact me. Message me here or on Linkedin or via my website. Send me an email (jestemat@gmail.com) and let’s connect.

What do I ask for in exchange? That you spread the word. That you come with an open mind and an open heart. That you open up to the idea that there is a friendly soul over here in the French Alps who would be happy to share with you. If demand is high enough I’ll organize free webinars to have groups come together with like-minded interests to learn together. so – PLEASE – share!

This is NOT some kind of money grab. I am sincere in my offer of free advice. Yes, I also charge for my coaching services. If you eventually become interested in hiring me as your coach, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. This post is not about that. It’s about waving a virtual hello and letting you know that you are not alone.

With peace and blessings.
p.s. Folks, it’s true that there are few, if any, guarantees in life. But I’ll tell you this – we will get through this. As a human family, we will be OK.

Stay strong. Remain in your inner peace. Connect with your own heart. Pray for everyone. For we are all, in one way or another, affected by what is happening.

With a full heart,
I bid you a very fond farewell for now, from the mountain top,

The books we read matter: my 2015 literary highlights

Dear fellow book lover,

I’m one of those people who is usually reading a half-dozen books at the same time, jumping from chapter to chapter, readings parts, coming back to titles later than planned or never at all.  You’ve likely met a few of my breed before 🙂 So, while 2015 has been a transformative and unique year…it has also been special in that I have actually started and finished a few great books! Some are novels, some are spiritual, some are from the realm of awakening coaching and others are in a class I have yet to define.  Each one comes with a unique story about the how and why the book came into my life, so in sharing these titles with you, I can also share some of 2015. Enjoy!

lenigmeduretourBefore the year began, I had returned to Haiti with an audiobook version of Dany LafarriĂšre’s “l’Énigme du retour“. This favourite Haitian-Canadian author shares his own experiences returning to his home country after many years of exile.  He describes Haiti and its colours, odours and experiences so perfectly.  As an immigrant he understands in full this incredible pull to that place where we come from and to which we no longer belong.  I started this book while leaving my own ancestral land, that place called Poland, after a half-year return of my own after many, many years of living elsewhere (see: “la polonaise-canadienne“).

agroforestryguideThe Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands” by Craig R. Elevitch and Kim M. Wilkinson was my Permaculture and polyculture guide for learning about useful plants, herbs, trees and companion planting in the tropics. Reference books are never read cover to cover (are they?) but rather skimmed for the useful bits…plenty of which are found in this incredible volume.

wholesomefearTaking a look at “Wholesome Fear: Transforming Your Anxiety About Impermanence and Death” by Lama Zoma Rinpoche and Kathleen McDonald was inspired by a desire for a deepening on the meditations on death and impermanence found in McDonald’s book “How to Meditate” that I have been using as my main meditation guide for the past several years. I love the meditations on death and impermanence because they always change my perspective on my own struggles and bigger questions by making me refocus on my priorities. As the book description states: “With the right perspective, our anxiety around sickness, old age, and death can be a “wholesome fear”–a fear with a positive quality that ultimately enriches and nourishes our lives.” I enjoy the authors’ compassionate sincerity and simple, clear messages in this book.

theprophetI am still flabbergasted that it took me nearly a quarter of a century to discover Kahlil Gibran and his incredible book “The Prophet“.  Thank you Osiris for this introduction! It’s only after reading it, that I learned it is in fact a very famous book.  Perhaps that is why it felt so special in the first place; I thought I had unearthed a gem few had ever seen before. 😉 As it turns out the pure love and wisdom that flows here is of the life essence itself and absolutely to be shared by as many as possible! If you have not read this yet, treat yourself to heart-healing-by-poetry right away. My favourite chapters are those on Love, Work, Marriage and Friendship. I continue to read and re-read them. I remember sitting by the water in Fort-LibertĂ© with friends and reading bit of it to each other out loud : )

bettersexNext on the list is Arjuna Ardagh’s “Better than Sex” a mandatory (ah, should all new chapters in life come with a mandatory book this good!!) read for beginning my education in awakening coaching.  If you are curious about what on this blessed Earth could actually be better than sex… this short, sweet and direct book will quench your curiosity right away. Highly, highly recommend!

tomsawyerAs chance would have it this past spring, I also meandered over to the municipalhobbit library in Fort-LibertĂ©, essentially one big room with a lot of books in many languages piled sky high with little order to them, and found Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” lying there.  A needle in a haystack would have amazed me less than these two, classic novels (in English!) found in a library in a small city in very-far-away-from-anywhere Haiti.  That circumstance alone made these two great titles all the greater for it.  I had forgotten how quaint “The Hobbit” really is. I think it was my first time reading “Tom Sawyer”. Yes, yes… that last comment deserves almost the same level of flabbergastedness as with Gibran 🙂

thehelpSince we’re on the novel train, I absolutely need to mention “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. Thank you Sarah for this recommendation! It’s a tale about the making of a powerful and well-told tale, and it’s set in small-town Mississippi in the 1960s in the midst of the civil rights movement.  There is a good movie based on the book too!  Two thumbs up for sure.

leaplookSometime in the early summer, “Leap before you look” came to me as a holiday read between awakening coaching classes.  The practices in this little book are magical, sometimes daring and always guaranteed to snap you out of your mind and right into the present moment.  This is my current go-to book when I’m looking to get un-stuck about something in my life.

feedingdemonsNext, and very importantly, I dove into Lama Tsultrim Allione’s “Feeding your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict“.  This title I turned to out of need in a time when I felt that my own inner battles needed to be addressed using a fresh approach and new tools.  I found an excellent tool here.  It is a meditation and visualization practice that uncovers and addresses a practitioner’s demon’s needs directly – thus ‘feeding’ the demon (and preserving the practitioner from being ‘fed on’ unconsciously). The author herself explains “that if we fight our demons, they only grow stronger. But if we feed them, nurture them, we can free ourselves from the battle.” I think this book has been my initiation into recognizing and accepting the darker parts of myself.

languageemotionsThe “Language of Emotions” by Karla McLaren has also been a very important title for me this year. I’m very grateful to my sister for recommending both this title and “Feeding your demons” to me.  In “Language of Emotions” the focus is on understanding what our different emotions are trying to tell us.  The truth is, anger, fear, confusion, grief, joy and so many of our other emotions, whether we think they are good, bad or we try not to think about them at all, carry important messages to us all the time.  The book description starts with: “Your emotions contain brilliant information. When you learn to welcome them as your allies, they can reveal creative solutions to any situation.” Currently, I’m using this as something of a go-to book as well in situations when I’m confused about why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. Ah, the learning continues! 🙂

endpovertySwitching gears somewhat, I certainly enjoyed Jeffrey Sachs’ “The End of Poverty:Economic possibilities of our Time” especially in its excellent and summary of world history and the different geo-political divisions present today. There certainly are economic concepts here that are over my head, and so I’ll be happy to go back and re-read some sections soon.

diamondcutterMeanwhile, the “Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on managing your business and your life” by Geshe Michael Roach came into my willing heart while staying with friend Ania in Cabarete.  I took it out for a first, evening read on the grass by the beach and knew that we would be friends for life.  When spirituality meets business, I’m very satisfied 🙂 This is an excellent book full of Buddhist wisdom intertwined with really interesting stories of the diamond industry. “Geshe Michael gives fresh insight into ancient wisdom by using examples from his own experience as one of the founders of the Andin International Diamond Corporation, which was started with capital of fifty thousand dollars and which today has annual sales in excess of one hundred million dollars. Much of the success of Andin has come from applying the business strategies presented in The Diamond Cutter. Geshe Michael’s easy style and spiritual understanding make this work of timeless wisdom an invaluable source for those already familiar with, and those unfamiliar with, Tibetan Buddhism.” Highly recommend!

desiremapShortly after, a new genius entered my life of the name of Danielle Laporte and her book “The Desire Map“.  Why a genius, you may ask? Because the concept is so simple and so right that it has stuck to me like glue.  Laporte argues that in our intentions and goal-setting we are not actually chasing the outcome or the thing itself: the better relationships, bigger businesses or new houses.  We are actually pursuing the feeling that we think we will feel once we have these things. Truth bomb. So, the book walks you gracefully through identifying what it is that you want to be feeling. We call these core desired feelings. This book and method speak to me in a big way. Thank you, sister!

alchemistA few weeks ago, Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist“, this time in French, found its way unto my lap. I loved this the first time through, and it’s even better the second time around. This is also a big bestseller, if you haven’t boarded the alchemist or the Paulo Coelho bandwagon yet… there is still time! 🙂

ciderhouseOh, the power of the written word. I also decided to dabble in John Irving for the first time with “The Cider House Rules“.  The writing style amazes me; it is craftsmanship absolutely worthy of praise. The topic is… heavy. We’re talking about a story about an orphanage and about the abortion debate for goodness sakes.  This novel is to me like the jaw-dropping admiration of an incredible art piece in a gallery – an art piece that is quite sinister and makes me feel uncomfortable, so that I am certain I would never, ever hang it in my house.  I did not finish this novel; I left it half done.

There have also been parts read and re-read of “The Transluscent Revolution” also by Arjuna Ardagh that are inspiring with their clarity, as always.

Rumi has also entered my life although in sections and chapters and never yet a full book in one go. I am so happy to welcome poetry into myself… I am in good company with Gibran and Rumi!

For all of these incredible books and time spent in reader’s paradise I have to thank my sister, Osiris, Ania, Florence, Alex, AdĂšle, Sarah and of course Arjuna and all the authors. It’s good to know that all the wisdom is within me and reassuring to be able to reach for a great book, poem or a story when I need someone else to spell out that wisdom letter-by-letter to me 🙂

Well it has been a beautiful year, and one for which I am filled with gratitude.

What about you? What have been your favourite books, poems and stories this year? How did these authors come into your life? From one reader to another, I am eager to hear about your own literary pearls of wisdom!

With warm wishes,


Startups4Charity: services modernes offerts gratuitement aux ONG

Un jour un group de jeunes polonais Ă  Varsovie se sont posĂ© une question importante : “Qu’est-ce que les Startups font pour participer au dĂ©veloppement ? Est-ce qu’elles pourraient collaborer avec les ONG ?”.  C’est ainsi qu’est nĂ© le projet de Startups4Charity.  Entre autres, on peut y trouver des services gratuits (ou Ă  prix trĂšs rĂ©duit) de la conception des sites web, du codage ou programmation, surveillance des rĂ©seaux sociaux, de traduction et des jeux interactifs d’apprentissage.

Qu’est-ce une “Startup” ? 

“Startup” est un terme issu de l’anglais qui signifie “dĂ©marrer”.  Une startup est dĂ©finie comme une jeune entreprise Ă  fort potentiel de croissance dans un stade d’implĂ©mentation et d‘expĂ©rimentation.  De nos jours les startups sont surtout liĂ©es aux entreprises technologiques qui testent rapidement et agressivement de nouveaux produits et services baser sur l’émergence d’un des plus grands outils de nos temps : l’Internet.

Les startups les plus connues et les plus accessibles de nos jours sont les compagnies comme Facebook, eBay et WordPress – des compagnies jeunes, fortement investi dans la technologie et entiĂšrement du monde de l’Internet.

Qu’est-ce que les Startups puissent faire pour les ONG ? 

Une ONG ‘typique’ n’est pas forcĂ©ment connue pour son innovation technologique.  Quand on observe les ONG haĂŻtiennes travaillant dans l’agriculture, l’environnement ou les services mĂ©dicaux on se rend compte que ces organisations sont moins connectĂ©es et moins modernisĂ©es qu’elles pourraient l’ĂȘtre.  Les mĂ©thodes de travail, de communication, d’apprentissage et de gestion les plus pratiques sont Ă  jour chez les grandes entreprises des pays dĂ©veloppĂ©s et sous-estimĂ©s par les ONG aux pays en vois de dĂ©veloppement (ou simplement inaccessibles).  Faut-il accepter que les outils les plus modernes et les plus innovateurs de nos jours resteront exclusivement entre les mains des organisations Ă  but lucratif ?

Pourtant, les organisations Ă  but non lucratif doivent aussi faire face aux rĂ©alitĂ©s de nos temps.  De plus en plus on trouve que les ONG veulent crĂ©er leurs propres applications et veulent profiter de la communication offert par les rĂ©seaux sociaux. Elles aimeraient avoir accĂšs aux outils d’apprentissage virtuel.  Elles profiteraient d’un nouveau site web.  Mais souvent ces outils coĂ»tent chers.  Encore un projet Ă  justifier devant les bailleurs ? D’oĂč la nĂ©cessitĂ© pour un service tel que startups4charity – l’accĂšs gratuit (ou Ă  prix trĂšs rĂ©duite) aux services modernes dĂ©sirĂ©es par les ONG.


Quelques exemples d’offres actuelles

Sur le site web il y a environ 30 produits offert par des Startup divers. Entre elles:

  1. Brand24

Creer pour surveiller votre marque, produit ou mot clĂ© sur l’Internet et surtout dans les discussions et forums de Facebook, Twitter et Blip.

lien: http://startups4charity.com/offer/brand24


2. Edustation

Votre propre plate-forme d’enseignement et d’apprentissage virtuelle.  Vous pouvez y crĂ©er des leçons et prĂ©senter vos propres cours. Combinez les rĂ©unions traditionnelles avec l’enseignement et l’apprentissage en ligne.

lien: http://startups4charity.com/offer/edustation



Un logiciel de chat en direct sur votre site web. Vous pouvez parler avec votre public directement sur votre site.

lien: http://startups4charity.com/offer/live-gecko


4. Turbo Translations

TurboTranslations offre des traductions authentiques, professionnelles et rapides. Soyez en mesure de diffuser vos mots partout dans le monde.

lien: http://startups4charity.com/offer/turbo-transaltions

turbo translations
À noter:

  • Startups4Charity ne fonctionne qu’en anglais (actuellement)
  • Pour que les ONG puissent y crĂ©er un compte il faut fournir un numĂ©ro d’identification fiscale

Image en bas – le fondateur de Startups4Charity Mac Zielinski



Mastering the VC Game by Jeffrey Bussgang – something of a book review

Well here’s a new read to add to the chronicles
 all about venture capital, entrepreneurs, start-ups and the world-changing dance that evolves between them.

the huge multi-national Amazon was backed by one of the most famous American venture capitalists - John Doerr

the huge multi-national Amazon was backed by one of the most famous American venture capitalists – John Doerr

Really, I downloaded a few samples of books about Venture Capital (VC) to iBooks, read a few and then decided on the full version of this one.  It’s written clearly, with every bit of the step explained, and by an author who has been both on the entrepreneur side of the fence as well as being part of a venture capitalist firm later on (he is general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners).  All written from the American perspective, and rightfully so, but with a great chapter in the end and spotlights on a Chinese, Vietnamese and European VC each and a global vision for the future.

The book covers just about everything from how a VC firm works, how it thinks and makes money, how to prepare your pitch as an entrepreneur and how to read and understand the ‘term sheet’.  The author continuously underlines the most important aspects: trust, transparency and strong relationship building between VCs and entrepreneurs (and their management team).

Bussgang uses great analogies and metaphors such as his likening of the 3 archetype VC directors to the original judges on American Idol (Paula, Randy and Simon).  He paints a clear picture and achieves what he set out to do “I wrote this book to demystify the VC world for entrepreneurs, having seen both sides over many years.” (from Amazon.com).  He illustrates the typical phases of development that start-ups go through and the classic story lines that show up time and time again in the dramatic, soap-opera realities of the venture capital financing world.

I especially enjoyed reading case studies featuring CEOs from companies I’m already familiar with: like Gail Goodman (of Constant Contact), Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Jack Dorsey from Twitter.

And as an educational exercise for myself I wrote down my notes from the reading in a 15 page PDF
 attached here if you’d like to have a peek.  Great book and fascinating insight into the VC world in general – recommend !!

Presenting your farm at a company Lunch ‘n Learn

If you’re thinking about starting a CCSA (corporate CSA program), it’s a good idea to get to know the employees who want to participate and to give them the opportunity to learn about you, your farm and the farming practices you stand for.  A presentation for your group is a great idea, especially in the first year of a CCSA – remember that you’ll most likely have less opportunity to interact and chat with your corporate members throughout the season (then you would in a Farmer’s Market or casual drop-off context), so this will really be your chance to shine and to connect!

courtesy Flickr Creative Commons - Jeremy Jenum

courtesy Flickr Creative Commons – Jeremy Jenum

Why it’s important

When starting out with a new group, regardless of whether or not you know your contact person at the company very well (the person I like to call your “evangelist”), presenting for the group is an excellent idea.  It gives your potential corporate members an opportunity to meet you, to understand what your farm is about, your farming process, where you’re located, the history of your farm and any other details you want to share with them.  Transparency is key and continues to be the main difference between conventional and alternative agriculture – honesty and a welcome invite to come visit and see the farm is a must.  Transparency also means you’re not making yourself sound worse or better than you are but simply sharing your story and inviting others to share in your harvest with you.  Let them know about the benefits and perks of the CSA model both for the customer and for you the farmer – people react very positively to genuine sincerity!

Who will present?

Presenting and public speaking is not everyone’s cup of tea.  A lot of people would rather weed the same field for an entire month than speak in front of a group!  Nevertheless, this should not deter you from presenting for your company since you don’t necessarily have to be the one preparing and presenting.  Ideally, you want one of the farmers to present but if this is not possible – either because you are uncomfortable doing so or there are time or logistical constraints that don’t allow for it – remember that you can send someone in your stead to present for you.  Consider hiring someone for the job – an intern, a long-term volunteer or someone from your own family – anyone who can represent you with enthusiasm and integrity is the right person for the job!  Keep in mind however that the group ultimately wants to meet YOU, the same farmer who is growing and producing their food, so if you end up partnering with someone to present, make the utmost effort to atleast show up and introduce yourself!

Organizing and scheduling your “Lunch ‘n Learn”

A common format for these corporate presentations is a “Lunch ‘n Learn”.  These tend to be a bit more informal, shorter get togethers that are often organised at larger corporations to engage the employees in a topic of their interest during the lunch hour while they munch away and enjoy a break from work.  Use this context to your advantage to prepare an engaging, funny and interactive meeting.  Don’t forget about the timeless art of storytelling and share your favourite farming anecdotes or previous participants’ reactions to the CSA program.  Connect with your audience on an emotional level by making it fun and personal.

Go ahead and schedule a presentation with the help of your evangelist at the company.  Make sure to pick a date that doesn’t conflict with the intense farming season.  The presentation will last anywhere from 15-30 minutes with a few minutes left to interact one-on-one with your audience and to answer questions.  The entire visit probably won’t run for more than 1 hour.

courtesy Flickr Creative Commons - Hey Paul Studios

courtesy Flickr Creative Commons – Hey Paul Studios

How to present & what to bring

Keep your Powerpoint or Keynotes presentation heavy on images and videos and light on text.  Make sure to be there 15 minutes early to iron out any computer issues with the tech people before you start speaking.  A Lunch ‘n Learn is primarily educational in nature so stay focused on helping your audience learn about you, your farm and sustainable farming.  You can mention the prices and process in signing up for the CSA program, but there’s no need to pitch or hard-sell it.  Also, be careful with using too much farming lingo!  Not everyone knows what open-pollinated seeds and worm tea are, but of course if you make it a part of the educational experience they will be happy to learn all about it.

Bringing something from your farm as a taste-test is a great idea.  Kale chips, sausage samples or any other farm fresh foodies you can offer will get everyone excited!

Last but not least – smile and be yourself!  It takes a community to build a CSA, and your coming forward and speaking with a potential group is a tangible step in helping to build these new long-term relationships!

Intrigued about the CCSA program?  Learn more about it in these articles:

“CCSA – the basic scoop” http://permaprocess.com/2013/06/22/corporate-csa-community-supported-agriculture-programs-the-basic-scoop/

“Pitfalls of CSA programs and how going corporate can improve the customer experience” http://permaprocess.com/2013/06/28/why-regular-csa-programs-suck-and-how-you-can-make-em-better/