Working with people who’ve lost their balance, I’ve become acutely aware of how unconscious we can be of our own body responses. Under stress we may breathe shallowly or stop breathing altogether. We tighten muscles in anticipation of fight or flight. We feel panicky and out of kilter. I’m always looking for ways of helping people to become more aware of what’s happening for them, so that they can make deliberate, helpful changes.
When we’re off balance, it shows, even though we may be unaware of how we’re coming across. I’ve experienced clients saying they responded calmly to a situation, while their colleagues report observing a very strong negative reaction from them. It really does help to become self-aware.
So I went to Brighton last week. No this isn’t a holiday story. I spent a hugely enjoyable and informative day in the company of three other coaches on a workshop with Mark Walsh of Integration Training, whose guest post and video about centring you may remember. This particular workshop was based on the work of Paul Linden of Being in Movement, and was rooted in Dr. Linden’s work with trauma survivors among others.
Grounded techniques and practices
We came back to centring several times during the day. Mark strives to provide a wholly somatic (body-based), subtly nuanced explanation of stress and its antidotes. Of centring, he says: “People all over the world have all found it found useful – it simply improves whatever they do – and is regularly assessed as the best “quick win” on leadership, time management and stress management courses. I am aware that to say something improves ANY activity is a big claim so I invite you to test it for yourselves with any measurables you can muster.”
‘Don’t believe me, try it’ was akin to a mantra throughout the day.
The Body and Leadership
Now Mark is writing a new book, ‘The Body and Leadership‘, and is serialising it on his blog. The latest chapter expands on the concept of centring. Mark says, “I first came across centring in the martial arts – in the pressure of confrontation being uncentred – off-balance and tense physically, mentally and emotionally – is a recipe for disaster. Since then I have taught centring everywhere from war-zones, to classrooms to boardrooms with people of many occupations on five continents.”
The parallels between his description of three responses to stress and that of Patsy Rodenburg in her book ‘Presence’ (‘The Second Circle’ in the US) are striking. There’s a brief description in an earlier post, together with a video of Rodenburg talking about her work with actors.
Mark and I have different views about the value of the concept of energy as a way of understanding human responses to stress, but I have no doubt that his somatic approach is rigorous, highly researched and deeply experienced. I shall be back for more.