Whether it’s a foreign language, a complex technology, or a new dance routine, staying up to speed in today’s world often means getting out of our comfort zone — and learning new things.
Women Together sat down with Leadership Embodiment expert Wendy Palmer to talk about the special role our bodies play in helping us to do just that.
WOMEN TOGETHER You teach people new skills and perspectives. What do you see as the two most important elements of teaching someone something new?
WENDY Creating a supportive environment and being able to break down what is being learned into very small chunks. In order for the body to assimilate a new skill or perspective, it needs to digest little bits of learning at a time. The mind and body need to synchronize so that whatever we are learning can become an integrated experience.
WOMEN TOGETHER What is the role of the body in learning something new?
WENDY If the body is not able to assimilate this new skill or perspective then a person will not be able to take action. A person will understand what they need to do and not be able to do it. As we say in Leadership Embodiment, “The body always wins.” The body needs to learn alternative responses to the habitual flight, flight, and freeze responses. The body can learn to be open, relaxed, and creative in challenging situations. If the body is open, the mind will follow, will be more open and creative.
WOMEN TOGETHER We all struggle at times with creating a change that we really want to make. We can’t figure out what’s holding us back. What advice do you have for people in the midst of this kind of challenge/struggle?
WENDY In order to see what is happening we need to get perspective. We need to be able to stand back and look at ourselves and ask what is happening in the situation. If we can’t get perspective we won’t be able to understand what is going on. As has been said, It is hard to read the label from inside the bottle. Connecting to our centered self — our resourceful self — allows us to see the big picture and ask the questions that lead us to discover what we are missing.
WOMEN TOGETHER You teach a workshop Choose How You Use Power, — is there a specific learning process that you use to teach about power?
WENDY I ask people to think about the complexities of power — and the different types of power — at work in their lives. I ask people to think about when they have used these types of power and when they have been used on them. Then I ask people to be curious and consider that all power has a shadow side and a light side. This part sets the context. Then we engage in the body’s experience of these ideas. We do some group and partner exercises to experiment with personal power and social power, how they feel in the body when they experience different types of power. These exercises are followed by sharing which usually lead to insights — part of that discussion centers around the benefits, rewards and consequences of becoming powerful. Finally, I leave the participants with concrete practices they can use to skillfully step into a more powerful way of being in the world.
WOMEN TOGETHER You of course know the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I’m guessing that you don’t agree with this, that your experience as a teacher shows that this is, in fact, quite possible?
WENDY Absolutely! The new neuroscience is confirming the plasticity of the brain and the capacity of the body to learn and grow in people into their 90s and beyond.