On Monday 28th March 2022, Tom Kenward hosted a free online session for our community. The session was entitled "Embodiment Part II: Living From Centre More of the Time". This is part of our programme of free Artful Inquiry online events that we run.
We invited guests to start their week in a more artful way and join us as Tom guided us to find the centre in ourselves. A place from which we see more, make better choices and don’t sweat the small stuff. Not so much, anyway! In this second embodiment focused Artful session, we got to glimpse more of our own wisdom, via the gentle power of finding centre. Tom shared a simple, powerful practice to help us connect more strongly to our centre, bringing more clarity and connection to our being and doing in all parts of life.
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Find out about our upcoming events here: Mayvin Events Calendar
Below Tom shares his thoughts about why he ran the session:
Why did I run a session on living from centre more of the time?
I’ve been interested in the relationship between our brain and our body, for more than fifteen years now, since I started to experience symptoms of stress from a combination of life challenges. As I started to work with body practices, I discovered just how much my body impacts my capacity to be creative and productive and to deal with stress; and how much my mind impacts how my body feels and functions.
Our brain’s functioning is of course centrally important to us being our creative, productive best selves. This is true in both work and life more generally. But even with growing interest in wellbeing and emotional intelligence I still don’t think we give the rest of our body enough attention in helping us be our best. Particularly when we start to feel the inevitable pressures of the day.
I found living from centre wasn't something I could think myself into
Gradually I realised that, while the ‘head job’ did help me, it only got me so far. ‘Head job’ activities might include:
- Mindfulness exercises
- Positive affirmations
I found these alone weren't enough and what I also needed was to find ways to sit, stand, move and breathe differently. To begin to shift the deeper layers of embodied habit in my being. These different sorts of practices were important for several reasons, I now know.
1. To be able to live from centre more of the time, you need to have awareness of the problem
Firstly, the stress responses I was experiencing were starting at a low level in my body. But I wasn’t aware enough of them to detect the effects until the physiological grip of them had already built up too much to deal with through cognitive means alone. Basically (a bit oversimplified) the hormones cortisol and adrenaline were getting to run me too much. But I didn’t realise until it was already a bit out of control. The analogy of the gradually boiling frog comes to mind.
2. Physical responses to stress make mindful solutions harder
Secondly, once my mind was suffering the impacts of these chemicals – a tightening of focus on the task, less ability to see the big picture, impatience, less empathy for self and others – I was then less able and willing to execute the steps needed to do visualisations or mindfulness. So then a loop would come into play, where my inability to catch myself and do something different meant that I would gradually become more stressed and less and less able to respond appropriately, and so on. A different analogy this time: trying to learn to swim while drowning.
3. There is complexity in the roots of bodily responses to stress
Thirdly, the roots of these sorts of responses in us vary and I think these dynamics are complex. I couldn’t unpick it all and wasn’t sure I needed to. For example, some of us get stressed out by feeling out of control of any number of things. Others get most stressed by losing their sense of belonging and connection with others. Often it’s a combination of these and other factors.
How living from centre more of the time can help
I think that for many of us, pressure takes its toll both in the moment and over time and if we want to be our best it might pay to become more aware of the early signs and to have some simple practices that we can call on that help us check in with ourselves and summon the best of ourselves in mind and body, so we can make good choices. For me, the practices of body awareness and finding centre are particularly helpful.
I am not advocating here for kidding our bodies or minds into believing that everything is ok. E.g. stiff upper lips or building (yet more) resilience. I believe we should pay attention to our well tuned senses: a knot in the tummy, tight shoulders or jaw, a vague sense that something isn’t comfy. Or whatever else.
Practices like centring bring clarity before we fall victim to the physiology of these body responses, helping us make better choices that stop us spiralling into stress. These instinctual senses are associated with our narratives of thought and ways of being in our bodies, that are unlikely to be 100% positive.
So, in summary, the neutral influence of a practice like centring gives us a better chance of responding well. With awareness, we can find more moments of choice to catch these feelings early, then do something different in and with our body. I think these practices help us become more congruent, grounded and creative versions of ourselves more of the time. That’s got to be a good thing!
Find out more about living from centre in Tom's journal article on the subject.
Feedback from the Artful
During the session Tom asked participants to consider how they felt at their best and their worst. See a couple of participants comments below.
We all greatly enjoyed this Artful, thank you very much to Tom for hosting!
About the host
Since his teens, the mind-body connection has fascinated Tom. He has sought ways to strengthen this in himself and for those he works with. An interest in Alexander Technique, Cranio Osteopathy and Acupuncture led him to train in Tai Chi and Wendy Palmer’s embodiment practices.
Tom has an MSc in People and Organisation Development and extensive experience as a facilitator, trainer and consultant. He is a fully accredited coach (ICF). Tom is an Associate of Embodiment International, and the Human Systems Dynamics Institute. He is a Certifying Examiner of Clear Leadership. Tom is also faculty at both The Kings Fund and Henley Business School.
You can find out more about Tom here: Tom Kenward