An international visionary entrepreneur, published musician, and bestselling author, Ayman Sawaf is one of the original creators of the discipline now known as Emotional Literacy and an early pioneer in Emotional Intelligence. His book Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations, which he coauthored with Dr. Robert Cooper, introduced emotional intelligence in the business world. Ayman has spent the last 20 years building the evolutionary foundation for entirely new systems and industries that are transforming human potential by providing new maps to evolve our relationships with ourselves, our business, and our world. His latest book, Sacred Commerce: A Blueprint for a New Humanity, which he coauthored with his wife Rowan Gabrielle, focuses on evolving the business world one person at a time, emphasizing a system guided by spirituality. Ayman has influenced countless individuals, teachers, coaches, and business leaders worldwide. He believes network marketers are particularly well positioned to embrace the feminine and the sacred in business, thus opening the path towards emotional mastery, abundance creation, and conscious evolution.—J.G.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born into a Lebanese family and grew up in the Middle East, but enjoyed a multicultural upbringing in an international environment. I studied engineering and mathematics in the U.S., and after I graduated with my university degrees, I started my entrepreneurial career in the lighting business in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. I became very successful, I had two children, and my life seemed perfect. However, as I hit my late 20s everything started falling apart. I went through a divorce. I became depressed. I had a health crisis, and I thought, “That’s it. I wasted my life.”
That led me to deciding to live differently and explore my emotions. Money and business had been such a strong part of my identity that I had never really paid attention to my feelings. A friend observed that this might be the cause of my problem. I was introduced to a book by Louise Hay called You Can Heal Your Life and started reading it. I realized there is a connection between emotions and belief systems and our external reality. I was an extremely chauvinistic* and mental person, categorizing emotions as a feminine energy and not part of my world.
One thing led to another. I met a teacher, read some books, and started my healing journey. I was astonished at how healing my emotions caused my body to heal. I said, “How come no one taught us this in school?” I had been to the best universities. I thought I was very smart, but realized I wasn’t. I saw how we needed to bring and showcase the value of emotions into our education system. I decided, “Let’s start with a new generation of kids who are emotionally smart!”
I coined the term emotional literacy, which is the ABC—123 of our feelings—how to recognize them, acknowledge them as ours, how to express them, how to receive the messages they carry inside them. I created a media company in Los Angeles. We did four TV series. We released 28 books, the emotional literacy series for kids. The company is now called KidsEQ.com. For years I sent out emotional literacy newsletters to hundreds of thousands of people, including school teachers and university psychology departments. I launched a non-profit organization called F.E.E.L.—Foundation for Education in Emotional Literacy.
When were you introduced to network marketing?
I joined a friend of mine, Dr. Christopher Hills, who owned one of the early multilevel networking companies called Light Force in the 1980s. Before he started Life Force he had conducted an experiment, where he went to India on a begging trip. He acted like a poor man wandering from village to village, to see how it felt. Every time he’d get to a village, dozens of kids would run towards him to beg from him. He felt an intense pain and promised God, “Before I die I’m going to find a solution to world hunger.”
He was a scientist and a philosopher. He was a genius. When he came back to the West he wrote 27 books, all about consciousness, and he introduced spirulina which he had found in Asia. Spirulina is a highly nutrient-dense edible algae that can be grown almost anywhere. It does not have roots, so it feeds purely on light. That’s why he called his company Light Force.
He had found a solution for famine, because he could grow the algae in any lake at almost no cost. Then he thought, “This is not only for famine. This is good for raising the quality of life for healthy people as well.” He chose the multilevel marketing business model to distribute his product as efficiently as possible.
In those days there were not as many network marketing companies as we have today. When I met him he showed me what he was doing—selling a product that helped people and helped alleviate famine around the world, but at the same time provided a way for people to become independent business owners. They could earn a living working from home on their own time, at their own speed, simply by introducing their friends to spirulina, and make a commission. At the same time he would infuse these people with personal development and teaching. His company conventions attracted highly respected teachers, and spiritual and personal development were a major part of this.
What made you decide to join him?
Looking at that concept, I said, “This is a highly evolved business model (I had not coined the term sacred commerce yet). Not only are you doing commerce and selling products to raise consciousness, you are also putting the distributor on a fast path to growth and self-realization.” We became business partners and worked together for many years. Then in 1997 he passed away and the company was sold.
I started developing this idea of conscious commerce, which is sourced in emotional intelligence. By then I’d written a book called Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations. This book introduced emotional intelligence, which is one of the precursors of spirituality, into the business world. Amongst other books, it planted the seeds for what is now conscious commerce, where we say: it’s not enough what you make, but how you do it. The means of conducting business, the integrity, the character, the trust, the relationships, the maturity, the way you care for the environment—all these things matter.
What led me to sacred commerce was discovering and healing my emotions, nurturing and building my emotional intelligence, and then applying it to business, inspired by my friend Christopher Hills and what he was trying to do through network marketing.
The network marketing business model thrives on emotional intelligence, because it’s such a relationship-based business.
Exactly. Emotional literacy is the language of relationships. Sometimes you simply look at a person and you feel their goodness. We buy from people because we feel good in their presence. Some people just get excited, and you resonate with them. To create success, we need to know how to express emotions, how to use them, how to transform them. Emotions are free energy, and we can learn to generate them at will. They don’t just happen to us. We can summon joy and happiness, just as we can summon anger and fear—and we can use them in our lives. That’s why it’s important to be able to master the language of relationships.
Can you go over your model for emotional intelligence as presented in your book Executive EQ?
The way you build your emotional intelligence starts with emotional literacy, the ABC—123 of our emotions. After you understand and recognize your emotions, you build your emotional fitness by exercising your emotional muscles. You bring the benefit of emotions into all your life skills, your trust, your relationships, your self-awareness, your self-esteem, your self-confidence, and so on. After that you say, “My life is now working. I’m successful. I have love. I have relationships. What’s next?”
That’s when you move to the third component of emotional intelligence, which we call emotional depth. You go into the depths of who you are. There you might confront and slay your dragons and demons that are inside, your shadow self, whatever things you’re not aware of that are still blocking you on your way to greater success or joy in your life. At the same time in your emotional depth you will find your treasures, which are hidden in the depths of the pool of emotions—your sense of destiny, your goodness, your beauty, your truth, your grace, the gift you’ve been given.
Root emotions like anger, jealousy, and fear are light emotions—they float at the surface of the pool. When you dive in, you’ll encounter them at first, but equipped with emotional literacy and fit enough, you can easily go deeper and discover your treasure chest—your inner wealth, your inner abundance. These inner assets are unlimited and nobody can take them from you. Coming up from your depth with your treasures, having slayed your dragons or your demons, now you are ready for emotional alchemy, meaning you learn how to transmute the base feelings of anger, fear, and jealousy into the higher emotions of passion, compassion, and much more. That is where you can learn to harness the greater power of resonance, and not just the cause-and-effect system.
Where did the concept of Sacred Commerce originate?
A few years after writing Executive EQ, I went to Egypt with my wife on our honeymoon. We visited an area known as “the Jewel of the Nile.” We briefly lost our group while looking at one of the temples. Out of nowhere, two Egyptian men walked up to us and, in broken English, asked if we wanted to have our picture taken next to a nearby square stone, upon which a figure was carved. “Here, please, stand here,” they said, pointing to the square stone. After taking our picture, the men handed the camera back to us and left. On the way out, we told our guide about this odd interaction with these two men and showed him the stone where we had posed for the picture.
Knowing we were both entrepreneurs, he smiled at us and said, “That’s not just any stone. Look again. Do you know who that is?” Together we said, “No, please tell us.” “This is a statue of the ancient Egyptian god Bes, who was the god of commerce and oversaw the merchant priesthood.” Rowan and I smiled and looked at each other, filled with curiosity and wonder. Merchant priesthood? We knew about temple priests, healing priests, celebration priests, but merchant priests?
He said, “They were the highest regarded priests, and they practiced what is called emotional alchemy.” He told us they spent 30 years in the temples studying emotional alchemy training before they went out to do commerce of consciousness or sacred commerce. They would travel from Egypt all over Africa and Asia following the ley line and go from temple to temple. They would trade and exchange products that were good for people, new books to translate and new kinds of herbs, new incense, and new this or that. Their job was to move products and services that raised consciousness, but they didn’t do it out of greed. It was their spiritual path.
Making a profit was simply a side benefit of their commerce.
Exactly. For them every business action was a reflection, a mirror showing them where they were in their personal or spiritual development. If they kept encountering a liar, they would look inside and catch themselves lying in this or that area, and they improved themselves. They chose business as a spiritual path. You can imagine if you are a healing priest you might meet six, seven patients a day, heal them, and then be done. But when you’re doing business, you’re encountering hundreds of people every day from all walks of life, so you have far more opportunities and experiences which you can turn into mirrors to look into. It was an accelerated path for spiritual growth.
What fascinated us from the start was the idea that commerce could be a vehicle to raise consciousness, as well as a spiritual path towards self-realization. Could commerce—that intrinsic and basic function of exchanging information, goods, and services—actually lift a culture to a level of sacredness that might otherwise not be attained, as well as put those who practice it on an accelerated growth trajectory? This idea made perfect sense to us and rang true like a clarifying bell that echoes as brightly and clearly today as when we first heard it.
Ten years after I learned about emotional alchemy, I was surprised to find out it all started in Egypt. I began researching and practicing it myself, creating wonderful new realities in my business and life.
The merchant priests worked on themselves and also in the community. Can you say more about that?
At the time, Egypt was a much more primitive society, so instead of schools and universities, there were temples. If you wanted to study medicine, you went to the healing priest. If you wanted to study business, you went to the merchant priest. You’d study not only commerce, but also personal development—emotional intelligence, communication, all the life skills.
Merchant priests spent decades doing inner work to heal themselves before they went back to the marketplace and to their lives. They called that inner commerce. Most left the temples to go lead their business life, while some stayed in the temples and continued to study and practice emotional alchemy, the most advanced level of emotional intelligence.
Anyone can learn and master a certain level of emotional mastery in three or four years, but to really become emotional alchemists, to know how to change reality through our thoughts, this requires a lifelong dedication. You learn how to generate certain feelings and combine them together like a chemist.
Merchant priests (and priestesses) were the masters of resonance. They knew that what you are resonating, in turn, creates your reality. Personal development was the first requirement. Before they could practice sacred commerce, they had to fine-tune their resonance, learn emotional alchemy, and then go out and do business to support mankind.
It’s what many network marketing leaders teach: it all starts with you and your state.
Inner commerce is the interchange between your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs—all the stuff that creates our reality.
Once the priests went back into the marketplace, they did several things. While some would trade or barter product, others would sit and meditate. They had a technique. They had a precognition that, as today’s scientists have confirmed, when you feel an emotion the brain secretes hormones and electromagnetic energy, and that creates attraction. They would not simply let the emotion happen to them, but would generate it at will, play with it, add to it, and create the energy they needed.
For instance, if you add a drop of joy to fear, it turns to concern. I’m concerned about something. That’s the message fear points to. Add a drop of joy to concern, and it becomes the highest level of concern, compassion. The same thing with jealousy. Add a drop of joy to jealousy and it becomes the realization that we want something others have. Add another drop of joy and we become ready to receive it through grace.
The priests would sit in a corner and close their eyes while all the merchants were buying and selling. Remember this was before society was educated or civilized, whatever civilized means. The marketplace was tense with energy of violence and rivalry and survival issues. Because they had such a high level of empathy, the merchant priests knew how to take on the swirling emotions from the marketplace, and because they were always in a state of joy, right away it transformed the anger, fear, and jealousy into passion, compassion and grace, which they then sent back into the market place.
By raising the energy around them, they would help people do their commerce, which was essential in creating greater peace and prosperity by solving the issues of survival, security, belonging, relationship—all the lower needs as per Maslow’s hierarchy. They wanted people to quickly learn and heal the survival and safety issues so they could start focusing on the higher needs of beauty, goodness, and truth.
Your book recounts how different versions of merchant priesthood have existed across continents and throughout history. Why is it coming to the forefront now?
Merchant priests were the protectors of feminine energy and the domain of democracy. They always tried to fight against chauvinism and forge an environment of true democracy to create a level playing field that allowed all people to prosper and grow. They were protecting the gift of commerce so everyone could benefit from it.
In many areas around the world there were merchant priests, sometimes called guilds or syndicates of merchants, to safeguard those principles. Unfortunately in Egypt and elsewhere chauvinism corrupted politics and every area of society, including education and especially commerce. It ripped the feminine and the sacred out of commerce, which gradually became the unconscious and often greed-based exchange of goods and services we see today.
At times when a ruler was balanced—respecting women’s rights and honoring the feminine energy—and understood the value of commerce versus war, he would raise the merchant priests to the highest level. When a ruler rose to power who was misogynous and willing to go to war to expand his empire, he would demote the merchant priests because he feared they might be interfering with his plans.
In addition to spreading the concept of democracy, the merchant priests had a dream that after the year 2000 and beyond, we would see the dawn of the Age of Consciousness. They believed people who felt like “global citizens” all around the world would rise and say, “Enough is enough. We’re not going to wait and rely on our governments or other institutions to fix the world’s problems. We’re going to take responsibility for it ourselves. We’re going to come together and work as one to solve the world’s problems.”
When we see network marketers take on philanthropic projects around the world, that’s exactly the kind of people they dreamt of. After the Industrial Age and the Information Age, which made information available to everyone through the internet, comes the Age of Consciousness, a time when higher consciousness, awareness, and emotional intelligence becomes available to anyone.
Bringing the sacred and the feminine back into commerce also means moving from a scarcity model to wholeness and abundance.
Yes, true abundance, which may be different from having lots of money. Abundance for the merchant priests meant having access to the resources you need, in the amount you need them, in the form you need them, and when you need them. It’s not about amassing millions in the bank or filling up a warehouse. It’s about being able to access resources, as in, “I need this—it’s available to me now.”
Prosperity means the enjoyment and sharing of that abundance. When I’m abundant, I have access to all resources, from money to everything else, and when I share them, it makes me feel good. Enjoying and sharing that abundance makes me feel prosperous. You may have a lot of money if that’s what you need or want at the time. However, if you have access to all, you don’t have to keep it in your bank account. It flows to you when you need it and it comes to you in many forms—time, money, contacts, relationships, whatever. It’s not about amassing wealth, but having access to everything.
This mindset of abundance requires awareness of our interconnectedness and an understanding that everything is energy.
Everything requires emotional intelligence. That is the key. We need to bring back the feminine energy and the sacred into our life and our world. Once we bring this back, everything changes. When the masculine energy wants to change something, it destroys it and starts something new. That’s why most people think when we’re going to create a new world, this one is going to be destroyed so we can start a new one. That’s the old concept of male chauvinism. The feminine doesn’t work that way. It goes through an evolution, which is a revolution of our concept of abundance. Water is soft and yielding, but it can transform stone. That’s how energy works—by evolving and changing gently, without damaging, contrary to the old chauvinistic way that destroys and starts anew.
Network marketing leaders typically teach people to work as much on themselves as they work on their businesses.
That’s what sacred commerce is. Conscious commerce, which everybody now talks about, is about doing business based on the triple-P bottom lines—people, planet, profit (in that order). In sacred commerce we bring in a fourth bottom line, which is spirituality or my relationship with myself and the Divine. It’s good to have a return for the investor, a return for the planet, and a return for the people who do the business and succeed with it. Now we ask ourselves, “Does it make me more loving, more understanding, more joyful, more in touch with my spirit of charity? How does it grow my relationship with the Divine?”
You have to start with healing yourself. There are a thousand products out there in the marketplace, available I’m sure to most multilevel companies, for how to build your confidence, self-esteem, how to communicate, how to relate. I have created a program based on my 20 years of experience in understanding emotional intelligence and emotional alchemy from doing business all over the word. It’s called the EmotionalAlchemyCourse.com and was just released a few weeks ago.
It consists of four modules with videos, audios, meditations, exercises, and so on. Emotional mastery is something you work towards for the rest of your life. You never completely achieve it, for it has no end. As your life unfolds you will continue to learn more about yourself and your emotions. This program will put you on the path. You don’t have to reach the end to see the benefits. The means of getting there create the quality of being there.
Can you give us an overview of the four modules?
The first module is called Your Treasure Map to Emotional Mastery and goes over the four cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence—Emotional Literacy, Emotional Fitness, Emotional Depth, and Emotional Alchemy.
The second module is called Your Inner Commerce and Resonance Causation. It teaches you how to create your own reality using the Law of Resonance, which is not unlike the Law of Attraction, but we made it very practical with techniques and exercises for how to use your imagination, your expectation, your desires; how to clean your resonance from your beliefs, thoughts, and attitude; and how to create your reality in a new way, how to bring in the future you want, not through cause and effect—the old fashioned way—but through receiving and allowing reality to unfold.
Module three is called Reclaiming Your Inner Wealth. That’s where we learn how to reclaim our inner assets, the gifts we’re given, and how to access all those qualities and use them in our business and lives.
The last module is called Partnering with the Pulse. By Pulse we mean the Divine, the pulse of all things. It’s not enough to have a love or fear relationship with God; you now become the spiritual adult who has a new relationship with the Divine, which is a relationship of co-creation.
Before I do anything in my life, I meditate and I connect with the Pulse through feeling my beauty, goodness, and truth. In this module we learn the eight frequencies of beauty and how to resonate with it, and the same for the 12 qualities of goodness. This allows you to feel your own goodness, your wisdom, your grace so you can start creating that new relationship. You want friends and connections in high places when it comes to business. You can’t get any higher than that.
Learning how to create the resonance is not hard but requires practice. Other teachers in the future will be adding components to grow the course. As it says in my book title, this is a blueprint for a new humanity. This is the new world we’re all creating together!