As the founder of Lumos Transforms and creator of The Resilience Toolkit, Nkem Ndefo oversees the development and implementation of programs that reduce stress and build resilience for individuals and organizations throughout the US. We dive into:

  • Challenging organizations and individuals to be change ready

  • The zone of proximal development

  • Self-care vs self-indulgence

learn more about THE resilience toolkit from lumos transforms


  • “I don’t heal anybody; people heal themselves. I can be your guide, I can be your accomplice, I can provide a piece of information or skills, but ultimately the will and transformation is not mine to do.”

  • “Trauma is a root issue that offers us an opportunity to make some big change.”

  • “My particular type of trauma has taught me to go big, because there were places where I couldn’t trust humans - so I had to trust bigger.”

  • “That fight, that struggle is important - but that’s not where we’re doing our best thinking or creative envisioning. It’s not where we connect deeply in warm and interpersonal spaces, and so while we may need it, the solutions that we come up with in that mode are going to just replicate it. I don’t want to live in a fight world.”

  • “Is your organization change ready? Are you personally change ready?  Because so many people jump into it and then they have not asked themselves, ‘What does it mean to be change ready? Am i resourced enough for the kind of change that I’m talking about? Because if not, you gotta scale back the kind of change that you want to accomplish - or you better change the way you’re resourcing yourself. And I don’t mean you as one person, but also as a collective.”

  • “People want this big change, but they jump into and fall apart because they didn’t concentrate on the resourcing and the change readiness that needs to happen.”

  • The Zone of Proximal Development: If something’s too easy it’s boring, but if it’s too hard and you’re crying and overwhelmed and you freeze and get stuck, neither of those are good.

  • “Self-care is learning how to read your own signs and knowing when it’s okay to push, and when it’s okay to rest. When you’re resting, make sure it’s effective. Because a lot of the things we call rest and recovery are not. We disconnect, we zone out, or some people when they meditate or do yoga they are very disembodied. Dishwashing can be self-care if it truly restores and rejuvenates you and so the question is how do you know? How do you know how it’s doing that?”

  • “The Resilience Toolkit is about teaching people how to read their own nervous system. There are definite signs of when you’re stressed and when you’re not, but it’s super important to know when you’re stressed, how stressed you are, and when you’re relaxed. What does it look like? And to be able to evaluate whatever it is that you’re doing. Your signs may be muscle tension, but where is the muscle tension? So there’s a whole host of signs to watch for so i think that framing is really important.”

  • “A lot of time people confuse self-indulgence with self-care. There’s no judgement; it’s just that’s what it is. Some people escape in ice cream, Netflix, instagram, heroine. It’s escapism.”

  • “I remember teaching a group of youth in South LA and that area had a lot of gang violence. We were talking about what it feels like to be relaxed, and one of them raised his hand sheepishly and said, ‘It’s like smoking weed.’ No judgement, but do you feel motivated? Do you feel like you want to connect with people? And they realized that we gave an artificial settling. It wasn’t the true sense of vitality, connection, hopefulness that you see with truly being settled in your nervous system.”

  • “If i’m living in a domestic violence situation and i’m in freeze, that may be saving my life at that moment. There’s no judgement; it is matching your situation or not? Is it helping or hurting you? And once you begin to have this lens, then it opens up this choice of ‘Hmmm can i do something to bring my stress down because it’s actually safe?’ and then i reach into this bag of tools to use. But we recognize that nobody is resilient overnight, it happens overtime.”

  • “Sitting meditation has become the gold standard, and remember that meditation comes from Buddhism and meditation is not for stress reduction; it is for spiritual liberation. The path to liberation is not smooth. And so if you’re coming to it for stress reduction and you’re sitting there with a high sympathetic chart, you will feel some degree of numbness. So someone ask you to just sit, and they say ‘turn inwards.’ And when you turn inwards, it slows down and you start to feel. And it’s overwhelming. But you’re like, ‘This is supposed to be good for me. This is what’s supposed to get me through from trauma to resiliency, but in fact i’m falling apart!’ Because no one asked….  So it’s really important to have a number of different mindfulness tools. We say, ‘Pay attention. Is it settling you or is it amping you up? Because if it’s amping you up, that’s not what you’re here for.’ So a moment of choice and healing can be, ‘That doesn’t work for me, but this does.”

  • “We encourage participation always. Some people like to participate through their mouths, and some people through listening.”

  • “As bad as things can be, something is always better. Lean into it. Fan that. What we pay attention to grows… When we find those little sunspots, really magnify them… We need those to carry us into the darkness.”

Follow NKEM and lumos transforms:

Twitter: @ndefonkem, @lumostransforms
Instagram: @nkemndefo @lumos_transforms
Facebook: @nkem.ndefo, @lumostransforms

#lumostransforms #theresiliencetoolkit #growresilience



As the founder of Lumos Transforms and creator of The Resilience Toolkit, Nkem Ndefo oversees the development and implementation of programs that reduce stress and build resilience for individuals and organizations throughout the US. She is a skilled practitioner, dynamic speaker, and valued strategist. She is known for her unique ability to connect with people of all types by holding powerful healing spaces, weaving complex concepts into accessible narratives, and creating synergistic and collaborative learning communities that nourish people’s innate capacity for healing, wellness, and connection. Certified as an advanced practice nurse with extensive post-graduate training in complementary health modalities and emotional therapies, Nkem has worked as a clinician, educator, and researcher in settings ranging from large-volume hospitals to small community clinics, and has maintained a holistic health private practice in Los Angeles since 2001.


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