Notes from the Field

June 2010 / Notes from the Field

Review of Wendy Palmer’s Conscious Embodiment Seminar
by Anouk Brack

“It is not that I stay balanced all the time, I just recover so fast, nobody notices the imbalance.”
–paraphrasing O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba,
founder of the martial art Aikido

I highly recommend Wendy Palmer’s teaching of embodied leadership through conscious embodiment practices that she skillfully derived from Aikido. Aikido means something like “the way of harmony with the life-force.” I participated in her conscious embodiment seminars level 1 and 2 in London, hosted by Matthew Dodwell. Wendy has been an Aikido practitioner for 30+ years and has multiple black belt credentials.

Agility to Re-balance

Her exercises are translations of Aikido exercises into everyday leadership and communication situations. They are simple to understand and very insightful to experience. It is agility in re-centering that is one of the key practices in embodied leadership. In order to become good at that, we need to know our personality and patterns well: not in order to fix them, but to work around them. Through the exercises, we get put in situations that inevitably will activate our survival patterns.

embodiement group

Being Attacked, Feeling Peaceful

In this particular exercise, we practice cultivating an open, welcoming field with a grounded presence while someone approaches us. Shockingly, even in a safe practice setting like the seminar, someone walking up to me to grab my wrist–symbolizing a strong intention to tell me something important–triggers all the safety patterns of closing down and tensing up. As soon as I feel my survival pattern kicking in, the exercise is to stop the practice partner, take a breath, re-center, re-open and invite him to approach further. After a few more steps “incoming,” I find myself having to stop him again, doing the same and then let him approach further. Finally, I can welcome him grabbing my wrists and stay present and connected while it happens. This experience makes it painfully clear to me how deeply ingrained these patterns are and why it is quite useful to practice embodied presence and openness.

Quick fix?!

When attending seminars and workshops we often unconsciously look for the quick fix that will make our lives easier. Of course we know it probably doesn’t exist but we hope to find it anyway. Conscious embodiment is a process and a practice; it is not a quick fix. To live more in our bodies and in connection with the “ki,” the life force, takes time and attention. We need to get used to being more present in our body, allowing more life force to move through us. So it is not a quick fix at all. At the same time it is truly the quickest fix available, because as soon as you notice you are off balance and you re-center, your world changes. You experience the situation and the people in it more positively, and other people experience you to be more calm, compassionate, clear and strong. So, paradoxically, conscious embodiment is, and isn’t a quick fix to a more fulfilling, balanced life. Building the stamina and discipline to make re-centering your new pattern takes practice, support and time. But it is worth it.

So how do we apply this in everyday life?

You probably wouldn’t tell your fast-approaching and intense-looking boss to stop in his tracks so you can re-center yourself. Instead, you inhale up through the spine (elongating the back and the neck,) exhale down (softening the front of your body,) balance your field left, right, front, back, up, down, and then welcome your boss into your field. Depending on the boss, this takes a little or a lot of practice. As soon as you notice yourself tensing up again, do the same: inhale up along the back, exhale down softening the front, balance your field and allow a smile.

Another useful technique is “grounding up,” stabilizing yourself vertically in space instead of (or in addition to) down into the earth or only outward, horizontally onto other people. Maybe you get an idea of what I mean by merely reading this, but I highly recommend getting a first-person experience of a high-quality embodied leadership training like Wendy Palmer’s to fully appreciate it.

More of her work can be found at http://www.consciousembodiment.com/. She typically visits Europe twice a year. To get updates, including Wendy Palmer’s, on the latest integral resources and events on sustaining evolution for emerging leaders , subscribe to Experience Integral’s newsletter at www.experienceintegral.org/newsletter. For more information on Embodiment, check out Matthew Dodwell’s websitehttp://www.embodiedleadership.co.uk/ in London or check out the integrally informed blog by Mark Walsh onhttp://integrationtraining.co.uk/.

About the Author

Anouk Brack is the founding director of Experience Integral, has her own company in training, coaching and consulting for leadership development (www.anouka.nl), and works at the Wageningen University of Life. Sciences where she teaches “Integral Leadership for Sustainable Evolution” and “Intuitive Intelligence.” She holds a master’s degree in Biology. Anouk can be contacted throughAnouk@experienceintegral.org. She will be co-facilitating an embodied leadership workshop at the upcoming Integral Theory Conference in California, USA and an interactive presentation at the Integral Education and Ecology seminar by Next Step Integral.

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