And what if instead of asking our minds to figure out how to do this we asked our bodies as well? What if instead of working out our physical muscles in the gym and our mental muscles in the office we began to think about our muscles as integrated and interdependent? What if we have muscles not only for physical strength but also for mental, emotional, spiritual, relational and moral capacity? What if we can build musculature to have more courage; to be more authentic; and to lead with more presence? What if our intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligences rely on our body intelligence?
Critical to exploring the challenging questions and topics that are often raised and explored in a coaching relationship is our thinking mind. However, it’s also critical that we invite our bodies along with us on the journeys that we take to change and grow.
Some of us traverse life primarily in our heads with the assumption that our thinking mind will be suffice in solving the issues and challenges that we encounter along the way. Few people are raised to acknowledge, honor and nourish their physical bodies in service of more than just physical strength or endurance. As a result very few of us venture beyond physical exercise for fitness, tone, endurance, and strength. And we assume that our bodies will simply follow us around simply because the body is connected to the head. Thank goodness they are connected otherwise we’d see a lot of heads wandering off without their bodies!
A great number of the leaders that I coach want to be more grounded, more resilient, more present, and more authentic. Often times such leaders have no time for rest, exercise, or spiritual growth. The sad reality is that most of the time these leaders are barely able to take the time to breathe.
Our thinking mind is aware that as a leader of a team we need to become more vocal, powerful and present so that we can have greater impact, gain the trust and commitment of our team, and to have impact. In coaching this would take the form of several coaching conversations centered on how to grow and develop in our voice, in our power, and in our presence. And this could yield some great new awareness’s and tangible results. However, with the body on board the changes can be exponentially more powerful and sustainable.
What would it look like if our body was on board? If our body is accustomed to being silent rather than vocal, passive rather than powerful, and distracted rather than present then our body will have taken on the shape, form and energy of these qualities. Our body may be slumped, lethargic, and quiet. Used to being rather passive our body may not feel its full impact in the world. Used to attending to many things all at once our body might not know how to reconnect with the roots of the ground. Used to being responsible our body may not know how to lean in to support. Our body, often distracted may not know what its like to be fully present in the moment and may appear and feel agitated or restless.
Our bodies do not simply fall in line with a thought out decision to change. Our bodies need cues to know that we want change to happen or that we are embarking on change. If we don’t provide our bodies with such information then often we find ourselves trying to change and yet feeling stuck. Often, if we pay attention we notice that we feel physically stuck but we can’t quite figure out why.
Have you ever stopped to consider what your body might be telling you? That bodily pains, ailments, or discomforts might not only be what is medically apparent? That at a deeper subtler level your body may be providing you with intelligent information that deserves your attention?
The gift of a regular physical practice, in my case yoga, is that I am regularly awakened to how my body, concurrent with my mind, responds and reacts to the challenges I am facing. For instance, my independence means that I don’t easily ask for help and I assume that it will be easier if I do it myself. I’ve had some good experiences to convince me that going it alone usually makes things harder. I’ve also noticed that my body has adopted this approach to life, often choosing the more challenging route. In yoga I have noticed this most – I’d take a narrow stance making it nearly impossible to balance. These days I approach many poses with a wider stance, I make more room for myself, I allow myself the option of a rest pose, I use the wall when I need, and I appreciate props that help me to be in poses with more support. I find that these options open me up to much more possibility in my physical practice and also in my emotional, spiritual, relational, moral and mental capacities. When I allow myself to depend on others and invite others in, things become much easier and more accessible.
In my yoga practice I’m often reminded to back off on intensity; to simply be in the pose rather than push to get through it; to hold a pose longer and to feel the edges of my capacity; and to sink into a restful pose when my body feels depleted. On the flipside, while training for long distance trail running I’ve faced long, steep and muddy trails that have made me accept that sometimes you just need to get through it. Sometimes you need to get through the mud, the rain, the long steep hills, the hard technical downhills and the distance of the path you’re on in order to finish what you set out to do. And so for me there are times to back off and find ease and times to go full on – both are available to me as I develop my musculature to be in both and as I journey with my body in addition to my very busy mind.
All are such powerful reminders of how to be in my life. And in my experience of coaching leaders, all such powerful reminders of what it takes to lead consciously and powerfully.
What would happen if you invited your body along on your personal or professional development? What speaks to you as you consider this?
Have you ever considered that you might build up so much courage that you need a body that can hold it all? Can you imagine building a powerful engine and then placing it in a little car? If you want to live a more courageous life then you need to build a body that can hold courage. The same is true for authenticity, joyfulness, love and so many other ways of being that so many of us aspire to have more of.
What kind of body do you want to build?!
If this article speaks to you then let me know and I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about an upcoming series of workshops called Courageous Body. Courageous Life. In this three part series we’ll blend yoga, storytelling and conversation to explore courage and what it means to build a body of courage.