I recently attended part 1 of a 3 part training in a conscious movement discipline called Soul Motion. It’s an embodied leadership training that recognizes the immense value of being in the body, as a way of cultivating the kind of presence that allows us to lead from a whole, resourced and integrated place. One commitment I made to myself during the training was to join my local chapter of Toastmasters to continue practicing embodied leadership while speaking publicly. I attended my first meeting and volunteered to do a 2 minute “table topic” speech. A topic is given to you just before you speak. Well …. in no uncertain terms, I fell flat on my ass. A complete train wreck. What surprised me though was how I didn’t spin out into story as I know I would have in the past. Stories like, “how can I lead if I can’t speak publicly, how am I to return to the workforce and rebuild a career if I can’t do this, how am I to inspire others?” Stories that only serve to box me in. What changed? Practice. Process. In this case, the simple practice of shifting weight. I returned the following week to present a speech on just that. Here it is:
You may remember me from such places as Toastmasters last week, when I feel flat on my ass in an attempt to tell you all about what my personal feelings were on what the world should do if aliens were to land on the planet next month. Though I fell flat on my ass I must tell you all Mr. Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, honoured guests. There is nothing I want more than this. That I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to step into the places that scare me the most. The places where my personality falls out the back of me and I’m left feeling like an empty shell. To free fall into the void of darkness. The place of I really don’t know. The place where we take the greatest risk of falling.
I spoke last week about welcoming. What my practice is these days is learning to welcome myself through my practice of dance and movement. More specifically, I’ve been practicing my walk. Noticing the shift of weight that occurs with each step.
All movement in the simplest of terms starts with a simple shift of weight. A commitment on one side. Establishing that sense of foundation. Release. Commitment. Rebounding. Shifting and then landing on the other side. We move from a place of finding foundation, shifting and committing to another place of finding foundation. What I’ve observed is that there is a risk inherent in this shifting of weight. I know this because I’ve watched my son take his first steps. This place in between where we risk greatly. Losing our balance, falling down, hurting ourselves, doing the ugly dance in an attempt to recover balance. But it’s also the place where we have the greatest opportunity to shift, change our trajectory. Grow. Thrive.
What I’ve come to learn is that most of us resist this space in between commitments. We find a comfortable foundation and become stagnant and frozen there or we find a pattern that worked at some point and stay stuck in this pattern even when it no longer serves us.
I know this all too well cause I’ve spent the last 16 years of my life balancing on one leg. Happily married to a handsome, wealthy man. Financial means that left me free to not have to work for the last 10 years at least. Living a dream life in a dream home. Finally, after seven years of trying to conceive, completing the fairy tale with a son born 19 months ago. My foundation, as sexy and alluring as it was, was a fairy tale. A highly addictive one that left me frozen and perilously vulnerable for 16 long years.
A year ago my fairy tale came crashing down on me when my now ex-husband suddenly and violently kicked my leg out from under me. I fell from grace over dinner, when he suddenly announced he was leaving me and was out the door in less than an hour. I came crashing down with all my weight into that place of in between. I’ve spent the last year of my life recovering from the fall. Finding my foundation and humbly relearning to walk again. To shift weight. This time with a true foundation under my feet.
Learning to sink in and rather than lean in on someone or something to carry me through life, I’m learning to recognize my own foundation. That I alone have the strength and skill and determination to keep shifting and shaping and growing and expanding. Strong legs that can run a marathon. Arms that have held up my marriage and raised my son. A strong formal education. A sharp, analytical mind and a body that feels and is alive with sensation and wisdom. Grit, tenacity, bravery, curiosity, compassion.
And well all else fails, I’m learning to lean into my most important resource. The capacity and desire to stay in love. Cause when all else fails and I’m flat on my ass and lost without a compass in the badlands, self love and mothering myself is all I’ve got. I’m recognizing that these resources I’ve built over a lifetime are more than enough to carry me to the other side. More than enough to pick myself up from any fall, regardless of how ugly and undignified that fall may be. And more than enough foundation to rebuild a life and a career on.
What I want most in this life is to be as alive and engaged as I can. To feel deeply. To shift weight and rise and fall. To fall often. Because what I know for sure is that it’s in this falling. In this darkness in between commitments that I’m really coming face to face with the truth of myself. It’s where I’m growing. And risking. And twisting and turning. Widening my field of vision. Strengthening my foundation to keep on doing this work.
I fell flat on my ass last week and know in the past that would have really spun me out. But instead I’ve been really pleased with myself. For stepping into the void. Taking a risk. Falling. Picking myself up. Dusting myself off and not letting that experience hold me back. Leadership I’m learning. It’s not about pulling off the perfect speech or living a perfect fairy tale life. For me it’s about having the courage to keep stepping into myself with truth and authenticity, compassion and love. And to keep on welcoming myself just as I am.