NAIL Freedom and Flow

NAIL Freedom and Flow is a self-inquiry and insight meditation practice that helps us remember that we always have enough freedom to take a sacred pause. In this stillness and spaciousness, we become better able to choose a creative response, instead of reactivity make our choices for us.

The acronym, N.A.I.L, is one I created and was published as a tool for therapists, coaches and other helping professionals, to offer to their clients and coachees. At the same time, its simplicity makes it possible for anyone to grasp the intent and usefulness on introduction and to apply it to their own lives.

In our recent pilot session, members were able to grasp for themselves how simply choosing to be aware and self-aware of outer occurrences and inner experiences, without trying to change anything, is already a liberating experience.

Here is the acronym and feel free to see how it lands and make any adjustments that support you as you navigate different circumstances.
N = notice and note
A = attune (into one’s inner experience) with acknowledgment & acceptance
I = inquire into ones interests/needs (with curiosity & interest)
L = let go as an act of liberation (to love, learn, laugh, live)

The following quotation I came across yesterday does a fine job of ‘explaining’ the practice…
What if each time you experienced an emotion, you acknowledged it, accepted it, and became curious about its message for you (instead of trying to make it go away or make it last longer)? Imagine how this could change your life. Imagine how heard, loved, and honoured you would feel if you really listened to yourself.
~ Vironika Tugaleva

In the pilot session of NAIL Freedom & Flow, I shared this quote for our reflection into how we want to be present at choice points in our day. It was deeply appreciated and found to be inspiring… and to me, is the core inspiration that contributed towards the development of this tool, practice and process.

“The last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you become the plaything to circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity…”

― Victor Frankl, [Man’s Search For Ultimate Meaning]

Something comes up for me reading these two posts.
What is so strange for me is that there are similar ideas in self help books going back 50 years - or more.
Something so basic, but the vast majority of the population is still stuck in “You / this / that makes me feel xyz.” and they just don’t “get it”. Even people who I consider to be very conscious.
Where is the disconnect?
I think this is a part of a wider problem about bringing integral theory and practice to “the masses”.
I’m actually stumped by the idea myself.
Some people “get” the idea immediately, while others seem to “like” having their feelings subject to the winds of fate and circumstances, or place the responsibility for how they feel onto another person.

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Yes, it is remarkably basic, and for a long time, I thought obvious. So much so, I didn’t even think my special way of working with it in my own life was so ‘remarkable’. I have been in many groups over the years, and when facilitators presented choice point scenarios, it became increasingly obvious that the vast majority would not pause to reflect and choose.

At the same time, I too, had many areas where I needed to awaken and clean up. One was not believing my feelings or my needs mattered. This was a result of conditioning, what is now addressed as trauma because of the lasting impact on the brain and body. Bringing a more deliberate mindful awareness practice and learning the nature of the inquiry that would be most helpful has become my life’s work and healing practice.

I have been reading similar ideas in self help books since I was a teenager, and I even got it back then and still, even today, I realised that only now, I am ‘getting it’ more and more everyday. The way I know it continues to evolve.

Thank you for you insightful reflection. I enjoyed engaging with what you have shared.

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“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
― Victor Frankl

Your quoting Victor Frankl made me think of the movie “The Grey Zone,” based on the book written by a Hungarian-Jewish physician who was involuntarily interned to Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz. During the time of Auschwitz, there were 13 consecutive “Sonderkommandos,” groups of concentration camp Jews who were “employed” to tend to the bodies after death. They were given a few special privileges, such as good food and wine and greater mobility around the camp, but were themselves put to death after a four-month period of service. Out of the 13 different Sonderkommandos, only one, the 12th, offered any resistance, and did in fact secretly plot and plan and carried out a bombing of the three crematoriums there. They didn’t escape death (the physician-intern who was a part of the group did) after the bombing, and most knew they wouldn’t. Still, their “freedom to choose how (they would) respond to the situation” was the central point, and their choice was rife with complexities and contradictions. One of the best Holocaust movies I’ve ever seen, a great soul-deep exploration of the freedom to choose.

Contrast that with a movie I just watched today, the restored 1948 version of “The Red Shoes,” based on a Hans Christian Andersen story. In a nutshell, a talented ballerina is in a situation in which she (seemingly) must choose between her dancing career (and she looooooooves dancing) and the man/husband she loves. She chose death, by throwing herself off a high wall. (If only she had taken a “sacred pause…”)

Making choices is very hard for many people, not just because of the responsibility involved in standing behind what one chooses, but because of the loss involved through what one doesn’t choose. Choice is sacrifice, which can indeed bring about a “liberation,” but that liberation is not always evident at the choice-point. And inner freedom, I think, is a very sophisticated concept and reality, containing as it does emphasis both on “inner” or interiority which many people eschew, and “freedom” which many people confuse with “free to do as I want.” Although they all met the same fate, death, the Sonderkommandos had inner freedom; the ballerina did not.

Good luck on your NAIL work, Aneesah; I’m sure many people are helped by it.


The profound and passionate reflections you share so generously moves, inspires and humbles me. Thank you too, for sharing the additional resources and how these highlight the reality of freedom, the gift, the invitation, the challenges and where and how consequences can be factored into the picture. I appreciate the contrasts you created as these evoke what the felt experience of choosing and standing within a choice point can be like. I will say no more, as your powerful elaboration holds its own “poetry.”

And thank you for your well wishes. I see sharing and stewarding this work as sacred work.

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#mindfulnessawarenesspractices also know as MAPS.

I consider NAIL Freedom & Flow a proverbial “army knife” as it can be applied to any present moment experience. This is one of the infinite challenges where connecting to our inner knowing will give us the support we need to offer creative actions instead of falling into a downward spiral.

This link to NAIL Freedom & Flow as insight meditation offers a preview (free) of my first contribution for the Great Creativity Toolkit by luminary coach Eric Maisel and is up and running on vimeo. It will be published in April 2021.

My topic using NAIL Freedom & Flow is offered as an insight meditation to Heroically Handle Doubt, Distraction & Inner Objections.

#focusedjournaling as insight meditation to help you seize opportunities and meet obstacles. See how to apply NAIL Freedom & Flow as a focused, guided journaling practice for self-transformation. In this video, I guide you, using the 5 components of NAIL Freedom & Flow in the form of 5 lines of self-inquiry that is intentional, designed to generate insight that can then inform implementation.

This is my second video contribution to the Great Creativity Toolkit project (with Creativity Coach, Eric Maisel). Enjoy for free on vimeo.

" The unexamined life is not worth living " ~Socrates

When we pause to step into the spaciousness, and be mindfully present, aware of our intentions and bring a willingness to direct out attention to reflect and choose what the next right thing, the creative choice might be, we are living an examined life and creating a worthwhile life.

Definition & Discovery Questions:

  1. Tell me about a time when you felt conviction, focus & commitment to your creative work. What in particular helped you feel strong conviction, deep focus & strong commitment?
  2. Think about a time when you helped yourself to show up, stay steady & even complete a creative task in spite of challenges such as doubt, distraction & inner objection? How did you flourish?
  3. Imagine a miracle has happened, you are feeling strong conviction, deep focus & courageous commitment — bringing the best of your being. What are you noticing? How do you feel, free & in the flow?

A 4.5 minute PRIMER of the acronym NAIL and the corresponding self-inquiry that is now being hailed as every creative change-maker’s Swiss Army Knife! I’ll take it!

  • What do I need to notice?
  • What do I need to accept?
  • What do I need?
  • What do I need to let go of?
  • What do I need to love?

As promised, the most likely date for our next NAIL Freedom &Flow session is in the 5th week of March, on a Tuesday.

Thereafter, the 4th Tuesday of the month.
TIME: 9am PT, 6pm Amsterdam

I always find this time of year, when we adjust our times challenging, as different time zones make these adjustments at different times!

The primary value of self-inquiry comes from it’s power to help us focus on what is important, virtues and strengths that can support us to honor our potential, and our intentions to bring the best of our being in every area of our lives.

I really enjoyed Lynda Pedley’s Enneagram 8 session last week… all the more because had put in a special request to relate the enneagram to the quadrants. It was all the more juicy as Lynda dropped inquiry into the practice.

Here’s how takeaways have informed my NAIL Freedom & Flow practice.

As a creativity coach, I am working on an article for Psychology Today. My focus is on this tool as a Creative Recovery Practice. Therefore, the 3 core strengths I will be referencing are:


These are inspired by the Serenity Prayer that is now the cornerstone of any recovery practice. My ‘research’ is indicating that these 3 strengths/virtues, correspond with enneagram types 1, 6 and 7 respectively. What are your thoughts and insights? I would love to hear!

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Hi Aneesha, it’s lovely to see you here in the Dojo. I love your N.A.I.L. practice. There are many like it out there in the practice universer. This one adds a dimension liberation, as you describe it so joyfully, to the capacity to pause, check in & stay open. I will practice with it. Sending you much love, light & laughter. Lynda

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Lynda, you were definitely on my mind when I shared this. Thank you for embracing my request so wholeheartedly in the last session! Yes, liberation… NAILing Freedom changes the conversation and allows for a fuller attention on taking what gives life from the past, holding it in the present and allowing it to give life to the future… “After the Liberation”.

“Free” is not free from feelings, but free to feel each one and let it move on, unafraid of the movement of life.

~Jack Kornfield

After initiating the inquiry, and inquiry is a generative process, some life opening insights have arisen… as I was listening to a Dharma talk and meditating in community with Sharon Salzberg. Listening to her share Buddhist principles regarding the 3 personality types, I saw how these relate to serenity, wisdom and courage. Instead of trying to fit a 3rd enneagram type into the category of ‘wisdom’, it became clear to me that even though type 1’s virtue is serenity, type 6’s is courage, and 7 could be seen to be wisdom…

What if there is a broader lens… that all enneagram types can be ‘grouped’ into to see which three lean more into these 3 personality types?

Here is where I’m at now…

Which personality type are you, when you are stressed? Even though I love to think I celebrate life and am a self-identified guru of gratitude, I see how I have an unhealthy propensity towards ‘grasping’… at straws!

Integral Inquiry: The Three Stages

Two days ago, feeling invigorated and inspired from earning my certificate in Appreciative Inquiry, I set about integrating more of what I learned into my NAIL Freedom & Flow meditation and self-inquiry practice. My intention was to develop it more fully relating to our integral practices and work.

As I set up playing with the idea of what to call my inquiry, I shaped questions I called Awakening Inquiry, Growing Up Inquiry, Cleaning-Up Inquiry and Showing Up Inquiry. Then the insight came to me, that these four types of inquiry, designed to reclaim the connection to our inner resources and restore a more integrated sense of identity could be called Integral Inquiry.

Putting a search into Google for Integral Inquiry, my first hit was this practice by Terry Patten.

There are two general kinds of meditation: with form and without form. Meditation with form involves holding attention on an object—it could be the breath, an image, or a mantra. Meditation without form involves releasing attention from all objects, in order to rest effortlessly in pure awareness—a “non-practice” practice that is sometimes called “just sitting” or “pure presence.”

Here is a slide showing the stages of development of a meditation and self-inquiry towards a more deliberate focused inquiry for /exploration and/or implementation oriented purpose and then the final stage - where inquiry is a daily, ongoing practice that amounts to a way of being fully present throughout one’s day. What also resonated with me is a practice I have firmly installed… inquiry that we take into our sleep and dreaming.

What is the nature of your meditation and self-inquiry practice? Which stage of development most applies to you, when you’re at your best?

Find the full article on Integral Inquiry by Terry Patten here

The Provocative Proposition by Terry Patten

This begins to bring meditation into the rest of your waking life, breaking down the artificial division between meditation and life. As you bring free Integral consciousness more and more fully into your waking state, you get closer to the point where it can naturally appear in your dream and deep sleep states also.

Thank you practice partners for your focused and authentic engagement and your willingness to share so wholeheartedly during today’s practice session.

Here are some resources from our session as promised.

The 5 Fundamental Questions

Minding for Gold: Invoking Your Highpoint Story

Mining for Gold" Creative Change Story

May you continue to prosper from your practice!