“You seem like you’re miles away.” It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Your body is there but you’re mind is somewhere else. Conversely, it’s also easy to be engaged mentally, but not physically. You know (the brain function) how to do something (lose weight, quit smoking, run a business, be a parent) but you don’t do (the body function) what is required to follow through.
If this only happens occasionally, that’s not a problem. However, if that’s your continual state of being, it’s a sign that you’re not fully connected with yourself or others. Not being fully present causes great strain on your relationships. And even more damaging, it makes it impossible for you to listen to what your own body is saying. It prevents your parts from being fully integrated.
There is great value in paying attention to your whole body as a source of wisdom and learning. You can learn to minimize distraction and become more fully present by incorporating somatic practices in you day-to-day activities.
What are somatic practices?
Somatic practices create an elevated level of self-awareness. Rather than focusing solely on thoughts and emotions, somatic coaching incorporates your entire body. The word somatic comes from the Greek root word “soma”, which means “the living body in its wholeness.” The body, mind, emotions and spirit influence each other constantly, even when you’re not aware of it.
Our society teaches us to concentrate on doing brain work. In school we memorize facts and pass tests, but we’re not taught how to live as a wholly integrated person. In business we sit at computers and strain our brains to the limits. But by the end of the day we’re exhausted mentally and just want to “veg out”. However, the body hasn’t been stretched or worked, so it’s too keyed up to settle down, therefore sleepless nights ensue.
By integrating simple somatic practices, you will get your work done, plus feel more centered and less tired. By bringing your whole integrated self to the table, your head is not doing all the work, and you’re not fighting with the parts of you that are distracted.
What are some basic somatic practices you can do to create deeper mind/body awareness?
- Mindfulness. Daily make a practice of noticing your body sensations and emotional responses.
- Monitor and become more aware of your breathing patterns. Here are some resources for you:
Tap into the Powerful Anatomy of Breathing to Promote Better Health
Five Breathing Exercises for Balancing Your Life, Your Mood and Your Relationships
Breathe Your Way to Wellness With the Yoga Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique
- Suspend judgment as you scan your body. Self-acceptance, self-awareness and self-motivation empower you to let go of self-judgments.
- Centering. Find that space within you that keeps you calm and at peace. Here are some resources to discover the best centering practice for you:
How to Center Yourself to Achieve Greatness.
10 Centering Techniques to Live an Embodied Life.
Discover Centering Practices That Promote Excellence.
- Grounding. After you’ve centered yourself, connect yourself to the ground. Move your attention from your head down the length of your body – your heart center, belly, legs, and feet. Feel yourself connected to the ground. Think about the time someone pushed you before you were aware that they would. You almost toppled over, didn’t you? Then think about how being aware ahead of time makes you able to hold your ground. You instinctively use your awareness to drop your energy and settle more into your body to ground yourself.
- The Feldenkrais Method®. Create a daily practice of body awareness through movement. I continually use this method to resource my back and make my body more resilient to stress.
- Visualization. Mindfully use the power of your thoughts to your advantage and engage your body in the new awareness.
- Reframing exercises. Rewire your brain to handle any negative event in a positive way and anchor the new action into your body.
- Anchoring techniques. Preset your response to specific situations by choosing positive somatic states.
These are just some of the somatic practices I use to help my clients feel more resourceful and excel in life. It’s empowering to know that you can mindfully choose to respond in a way that leaves you feeling whole and at peace. It just takes practice. With practice, your body will become more flexible and resourceful and you will become the person you want to be.
I’d love to explain further how you can use these and other powerful somatic practices. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
“Our sensations are the original language of the body.” ~ Amanda Blake
Is your body talking to you?
Are you listening to its whispers?
Or do you wait until it screams?
Learning to slow down and listen to your body isn’t just about feeling the aches and pains of over exertion. It involves discovering how you actually feel emotionally about something.
Your emotional health and physical health are intertwined and inseparable. Your emotions are experienced and stored in your body. And they are manifested through body sensations. Breathless, clammy, fuzzy, hot, heavy, dizzy, queasy, or shaky are a few body sensations you may experience when you’re angry or stressed. Energized, full, expansive, smooth, and radiating are a few body sensations you may experience when you’re joyful and confident.
It’s within your body that you’ll discover the key to unlocking your emotional intelligence. In other words, emotions live inside your body, changing your physical experience and causing you to believe and act in particular ways. One moment you’re happy (emotion) on top of the world, so you’re feeling spacious and light in the chest (body sensations). Then someone says something that makes you feel anxious (emotion). It feels like your world is caving in, your shoulders slump and you feel deflated and dull (body sensations).
Conversely, by changing your posturing, you can alleviate these body sensations and alter your emotional experience. If you’re feeling shy and uncertain, you can breathe deeply, soften and straighten your spine, lift your head and look people in they eyes. The more you practice this, the more it will be your natural response and your emotions will change to feeling more confident and self-assured.
The concept, embodied cognition, says every thought/ideal is connected with an emotion which, in turn, has a physiological response in your body. Reflect on how the energy of shyness makes you feel small and act withdrawn. Sadness feels heavy, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Anger feels hot and stormy. Excitement feels energizing.
Tune into your emotions and identify each sensation as you experience it. Honor the messages that your body is sending you about your feelings. Don’t try to over ride them. Suspend any judgment of them. Simply observe them for what they are.
Do you want to become more balanced and centered? Here are some simple ways to get better acquainted with how your body responds to emotions. Observe what body sensations and emotions manifest as you do each of the following:
Regular exercise. It’s been proven to reduce stress, boost your “feel good” endorphins, enhance your self-confidence, sharpen your thinking ability, ground you, and inspire creativity.
Now add another dimension to your exercise sessions – an emotional one. Are you feeling anxious? Channel your anxiety into the physical act of exercise and release it. Invite all of your feelings, whether you view them as positive or negative, to come through your movement.
Improve your posture. Sitting in a slumped, helpless position invites thoughts and memories to manifest. Sitting in an upright, powerful position invites empowerment thoughts and memories.
Eating healthfully for your body type. Everyone has a unique biochemistry which greatly influences brain chemistry and emotional state. What you choose to fuel this system will be determined by your metabolism, blood type, genetic history, and activity level. Of course, we all have basic needs for fresh, nutrient-rich, whole foods.
Deep breathing. It improves your physical health and helps you remain calm under stressful situations. Also Alternate Nostril Breathing can help you achieve balance and harmony.
The key to controlling your emotions is developing an awareness of exactly WHERE you feel them, HOW they feel in your body, and in WHAT healthy ways you can process them. Somatic Coaching can help you become between attuned to what your body is telling you. Contact me and let’s schedule a session that will transform you life.
And if you need help listening to your body, make sure to click here to download your free copy of The 7-Point Wellness Assessment – Create Change Through Awareness.
Over the course of the last few weeks we’ve been discussing various aspects of embodied leadership for women. It’s not something you do – it’s who you are. The way you speak, the words you choose, your body positioning, all reflect the harmony you feel by being fully present.
People follow leaders because they’re inspired by their presence and way of being, not by how smart they are or what position they hold. When you become an embodied leader who lives the life that you teach, you’ll build trust quickly and inspire others to achieve excellence.
Remember, embodied leadership results from collaboration between body, mind and spirit – the whole YOU. An excellent leader provides a model that embodies the good that others want to achieve in all areas of their own lives. Let’s recap what this means…
Body: To lead others, it’s important to model how to be physically fit. An awareness of what you’re body is telling you and what it’s revealing to others is essential to creating a presence that inspires confidence. When your body is congruent with your mind and spirit, you’ll be able to control the physiological responses to stress and you’ll feel at peace even under the most trying situations.
Mind: To lead others takes mental discipline. Developing emotional intelligence increases your ability to concentrate and focus, observe and release negative self-talk, calm your emotions, see the possibilities as you visualize positive outcomes, and be fully present in and accepting of difficult situations.
Spirit: To lead others, your passion must shine. When you’re firmly grounded in your own spirit, you never need to feel challenged or defensive, but you remain open and accepting. You’re able to hold onto your own values while helping your clients achieve what is most important to them.
When you embody or truly live what you believe, people can see that you’re balanced and centered, and they want that for themselves. This is what creates an authentic connection with others.
What are some other benefits to you and your relationships when you excel at embodied leadership skills? You’ll be able to:
- Improve physical, emotional and mental endurance, strength, and agility.
- Increase your self-confidence and composure by remaining centered.
- Keep your compassion through awareness of others.
- Sharpen your concentration, focus and visualization.
- Be organized and goal oriented so you achieve your best life ever.
- Stand out in your industry as a thought-leader.
- Stay committed to your goals in the midst of complexity.
- Use body language to clearly communicate your core beliefs with conviction.
- Read the intentions, motivations and abilities of the people around you.
- Have honest, courageous conversations about the most difficult subjects.
- Enhance and support your own mind/body/spirit and that of others.
- Resolve conflict as you learn to let situations unfold without resistance.
- Build trust as you listen carefully and proactively provide solutions.
- Act decisively while maintaining important relationships.
- Anticipate and address potential problems rather than reacting to them.
- Create opportunities for effective action in emotionally charged environments.
- Increase your own accountability and that of others.
- Enable people to self-correct by giving well-chosen feedback.
- Motivate and influence others to take action.
- Fine-tune your awareness as you see what others need and desire.
Coaching is an investment you make in yourself to create the life you truly want. Meaningful results require a commitment. Please contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via Skype, so we can explore our coaching partnership.
It’s commonly assumed that good leadership styles are mostly mind or personality based. Although it’s recognized that leaders should look the part too, being physically fit and well groomed. And some even give consideration to speech training and the way a person carries herself. But beyond that the body isn’t thought about much…
That’s a mistake because ultimately what’s inspiring is a leader’s presence and way of being.
An embodied leader is aware that planning and leading are definitely whole mind/body/spirit activities. And that’s what makes business leaders who have embodied leadership skills so different and more much effective.
Take for example a leader we’ll call Sarah.
She’s so busy she doesn’t have time for breakfast as she rushes off to meet her team. They greet her with demands that pull her in eight different directions. She tries to handle them all at once, while not giving any of them the attention they deserve. Oh, her frustration and stress levels are rising. She has deadlines to meet, so she cancels another lunch date with her best friend…again! She just hates putting her friend off like that, but she couldn’t have eaten a bite anyway.
The presentation scheduled this afternoon is making her sick to her stomach. And no, she can’t make it to the gym today. She’s must keep her doctor’s appointment because her blood pressure pills need to be adjusted and she want to talk with the doc about getting something for the anxiety and depression that’s closing in on her.
Everyone thinks she has it all together. That she’s so successful. She looks like a leader. Yet she’s falling apart inside. Something is drastically wrong. Her leadership style is impossible to maintain.
Are you starting to see that effective leadership styles requires that the body be completely congruent with the mind?
A successful leader must be able to intervene in his or her own physiological responses to stress and have the awareness to know which decisions are going to support the things that are really important in life.
Sarah, from the above story, wants to be calm and collected. She has every intention of reaching her goals for having a successful business, strong friendships and good health. Yet as stress is introduced, her body betrays her. Because she’s only thinking with her conscious mind of doing the things she know good leaders do, her body rebels, because it reverts back to patterns that have been formed by a lifetime of habits.
Your habits live not only in your memories, but in your tissues and cells. The body remembers. Embodied awareness lets you hear what your body is saying. It helps you watch yourself from an outside perspective. Then you can engage in practices that develop your ability to take more effective actions. In time, you develop a new muscle memory that lets you do things you couldn’t have done before, whether it’s being calm under crisis or being an assertive introvert.
Extreme stress can cause a mind/body disconnect that makes people act in crazy ways. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “She’s not herself today.” When stress triggers an interaction in our brain between the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones and the amygdala, which assigns emotional significance to an event, the fight or flight stress response takes over the conscious mind. Normally you wouldn’t scream, yell, shake, and cry, but the brain/body disconnect makes you behave in a way that’s foreign to you.
Let’s put it in another way…you may know you’re not supposed to run from a bear, but your legs don’t believe you. This is a really dangerous mind/body disconnect that gets you in trouble. Because the next thing you know you’re trying to outrun a bear…not a good idea!
So what can embodied leadership principles do for you that other leadership styles do not?
It supports you as you make slow and steady progress toward a strong awareness of your mind/body/spirit connection. Through mindfulness, centering, somatic exercises, breathing techniques, and NLP anchoring techniques you learn how to be present in the moment of stress in a relaxed, unattached way. It gives you time and the skills to slow down, be fully mindful so your actions truly reflect a peaceful state of mind. If you’d like to work with me as you master these skills, I’d be honored for you to contact me. We can set up a time to meet in person at my Ashland, Oregon office or via Skype.
Would you like to fully develop your potential for leadership? The principles of Aikido (The Way of Harmony or Peace) can help you. Aikido is a unique form of martial arts that emphasizes the blending of energy, rather than resisting it or attacking. It lets you peaceably deal with conflict by taking the energy directed at you and neutralizing it or diverting it. Aikido helps you be extremely calm, focused, and effective in the midst of chaos. In the process you learn to handle yourself around others with confidence and it gives you a powerful presence as an embodied leader.
Aikido heightens your sense of the mind/body connection. It strengthens your capacity to find and maintain a sense of calm while staying vigilantly aware. You develop an alert relaxation that appears to be very still but is highly engaged with your surroundings. With practice, you can become very stable AND ready to move with 100% of your power at will.
What principles of aikido serve business leaders best in today’s high-stress, high-demand world?
Be balanced and centered. If you feel like you’re under attack, you’re out of balance and are possibly operating from a place of disrespect or distrust. Instead of giving in to the fight or flight response or freezing up, you can use centering and breathing techniques that promote emotional calmness and mental alertness that enable you to respond gracefully to even the most stressful situations. The loss of a centered mind results in loss of balance as you instinctively start to fight for control. A centered and balanced mind doesn’t need to fight, control, or dominate.
Be calm. Many business leaders get caught up in reacting emotionally to everything, living in drama so that they’re always putting out fires. You can deepen your mind’s capacity for calmness. If you feel calm, you can maintain calm under any circumstance. Aikido teaches you to get closer to your attacker and move in the same direction as he is, which may seem counterintuitive, but is a very powerful life skill for diffusing tense situations.
Be fully present and aware. Too many people are disconnected or distracted from the here and now because of worrying about the past or the future. Or they’re so busy thinking of what they’ll say next they aren’t listening to what’s being said. By becoming fully aware of the other person or of the situation, without being attached to a preconceived outcome, you can build a harmonious relationship with what’s happening. By doing so, you get out of your own way and develop the ability to access your intuitive self. You learn to succeed by surrendering.
Be open and adaptable. The fear of losing control in actuality spins a person out of control. Let the situation unfold without resisting. Rather than letting your mind lead you, learn how to lead your mind. Become comfortable with not knowing everything, which in turns opens you up to creative solutions that are best for everyone on your team.
Be proactive and responsible. While it’s easy to make excuses for why something doesn’t work, an embodied business leader takes responsibility, provides guidance and support as he or she start influencing others to do their best. For those who are painfully shy, introverted, and uncomfortable in social situations, the principles of aikido teach you to assert yourself in relationships without being aggressive. You learn to successfully lead a person, so that he or she willingly follows. This is an invaluable skill for you in your role as an embodied leader.
You have the tools to deal effectively with conflict within you. You just need to find them. Just as silence is always present even if there’s a great deal of noise going on around you, you can experience silence if you shut out the distractions and listen for it. In the same way, you have the capacity for peace and calm under all stressful situations. You just need to learn to access it.
When you achieve peace, no one is going to take it away from you. Only you can give your peace away. With that simple understanding, you know that conflict is not about you, it’s about them and their insecurities. By modeling your peace, you can diffuse sticky situations and improve not only your life but the lives of those around you.
Would you like to learn more about how a complete body/mind approach can help you excel in life and business as you step fully into your embodied leadership role? Contact me and I’d be happy to set up a somatic coaching session with you in person in Ashland, Oregon or via Skype. And don’t forget to get your free copy of “The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment”, so you can build your life on a solid foundation.