Search Outside Yourself by Wendy Palmer
I think that sometimes we miss our resources by looking for them inside ourselves. Sure we do carry wisdom, compassion and confidence within us – and when we go inside we can also find shame, guilt and doubt. For many the inner critic is a highly developed voice that blocks our awareness of our confident, compassionate, creative self. There are skillful practices of working with the inner critic. They usually involve recognizing the Grinch/critic and then either expelling it or kindly accepting then releasing it. One of the issues is that this kind of process takes some time.
There is a quicker more immediate way to access our potential. In Leadership Embodiment we suggest that rather than looking inside for resources like inspiration, compassion and confidence you can invite these resources to come into you and through you from outside your self. Most of us have experienced the phenomena often called the ‘zone’ or the ‘flow state’. This happens when we have the experience of efforting as we do an an activity, then beginning to tire and backing off a bit, and suddenly the activity becomes easy, effortless. Often people will describe this as, “something was coming through me/us”. This phrase, “something was coming through me/us”, points to the idea that the energy or inspiration came from outside our body – it came from the space or environment around us. This idea presupposes that we agree that space is not empty and our bodies are not solid. From a scientific point of view our bodies are made up of trillions of atoms. Atoms are primarily space with very small particles within that space so we could deduce that we are not as solid as we sometimes feel. We might say that the feeling of being solid is more of a belief than a fact.
My background in aikido – a non-violent Japanese martial art – has shown me that this phenomena, the experience that something is coming through me, is what I need to tap into when I am training with men who are twice my size and half my age. As a result I have been interested in this for a long time. My theory is that the reason we don’t use this resource more often is that we have been taught by our culture that we must do activities by using our own personal energy. We were told that we must do things ourselves, that we are responsible for doing our chores, our homework and our job. We were not told that there are tremendous resources around us that will support us in everything we do. We believe in the message that humans have a limited capacity to lift heavy things to, to run long distances, to go without sleep or to tolerate extreme cold. Yet you can look on the Internet any day and see people doing impossible things. Monks sleep at high altitudes in a light robe and don’t get hypothermia, in Mexico I saw young boys picking up huge stones easily – they don’t know that are not supposed to be able to do that. There is documentation that grandmothers have moved cars off of babies and sons pick up tractors off of fathers yet we still buy into to belief that we are limited and must do things alone.
I believe that we can open to and invite resources to come through us. Rather than thinking of the energy in general terms like flow or collective unconscious it is more helpful to think of it in specific terms. This is because the stressors are specific and it really helps to match the resource to the stressor. For those of you who know my work you have heard me refer to my ‘posse’. When I am being judgmental and want to have more compassion I invite the caring feeling of Mother Teresa, when I am feeling doubtful I invite the confidence of OSensei, the founder of aikido and when I am feeling closed minded and confused I invite the wisdom and enthusiasm of the Dali Lama. What is great about this practice is that the change is immediate. I shift from feeling tight to feeling open, from feeling worried to feeling confident. Inviting archetypes changes the muscle groups in the body. We begin to fire extensors rather than contractors. When we change the muscle groups we are using we change the chemicals/ hormones that are released in the body, these hormones activate different parts of our brain, thus we change the way our brain functions which changes the way we think and speak.
Of course I don’t stay in that open, confident, creative state, I get triggered just as much as before, the wonderful difference is that I don’t stay triggered. I can invite my posse again and immediately feel the shift. The practice is to recover our open, confident and creative self, over and over again. After a while this compassionate, creative state is as much a part of my identity as my reactive state and I can move more fluidly between the two parts of my self.
One last note – I find it important to use archetypes, teachers and mentors that give me a feeling in my body. It is the body pattern that needs to shift so the chemistry shifts and then different parts of the brain light up and the mind will shift with ease.