Mark Walsh has dedicated his life to embodied learning. He set up the training company Integration Training – the first European embodied business specialists – eight years ago. He has taught embodiment to coaches in 25 countries, founded The Embodied Facilitator Courses and Embodied Yoga Principles. A Black belt, he has 20 years of aikido training and teaching on five continents, plus experience in numerous other physical systems such as Being-In-Movement, somatics, yoga, tai chi, systema, Feldenkrais, flamenco, tango, contact improvisation, jiu-jitsu, MMA and 5Rhythms.
Lose strong. (From “Integration Training” Blog)
People keep telling me to be strong. They mean the best of course and I’d like to reply in a few ways.
The first is that I AM strong, and have worked on it. Thanks for the reminder. Twenty years of aikido, meditation, yoga, sobriety, volunteering with traumatised soldiers, kids persecuted gays, and generally staring-out life’s rougher side generally, wasn’t for a fucking laugh. The muscles or the kudos don’t matter. What matters is being strong enough to speak at your father’s funeral, or to make sure the work you love doesn’t suffer too. Strong enough to let your wife see you cry and let her be the big spoon for a while. Strength is spitting gratitude in the face of pain, humour in the face of despair, and celebration in the face of loss. THIS IS STRENGTH. This is the muscle to build.
Another reply is please let me be weak now… if “strong” means having to be always on top of my shit, not feeling and not grieving. If being “strong” means denying the reality of heartbreak and the gift of deep mourning. Fuck you if being strong means some loss-denying positive thinking abomination. Life is also about the shadows too, you sigh-puking, eye-contact-raping, white-wearing, spiritual by-passing mother fuckers. And fuck you if being strong means some dictated masculine ideal of invulnerability. Let me be weak for once, I’ve tested my mettle and proven my worth, the salt in these tears doesn’t answer to erectile insecurity.
Lastly, I’d reply that none of us are strong alone. As I’ve taught to aid workers in a dozen hell-holes – we’re inter-resilient. “I” is never ever strong. “We” is strong. The myth of the love rugged individual in tough times just causes more suffering. In this spirit I also deeply appreciate or the messages of support since my father died and the inter strength of the remaining family. Special muscular hug to Polish Pete Strzk who I was a live-in aikido student with and who just lost his young wife to cancer. We slept on the floor, ate cheap food, had cold showers and were beaten senseless every night. Good times. Now these are bad times and while we ain’t quite as young, lean or mean now, we’re still warriors. This is what we trained for.
See you at her funeral brother.
What’s the Opposite of Stress? (from “Centring: Why Mindfulness Alone Isn’t Enough”)
It’s easy with all this focusing on stress and centring to get caught up in the negative, so as this chapter draws to a close let’s ask what is the opposite of stress? As both Western psychology and medicine is largely pathology based, or has been until recently, this question doesn’t usually come up, but we think is vital to consider.
What have we been aiming for with all this centring anyway? Just not being screwed-up? That’s limited. “Optimal functioning or peak performance?” true, but they hardly capture our humanity and lack poetry. There are many answers as to what is the opposite of stress, including the physiological model of parasympathetic “rest and digest”, but we’d like to consider another angle. The word that works best for us on a deeper answer to the question is “grace”.
Grace is an appropriate and lovely word as it can refer to both physical movements of the body and also to transcendent beauty and spirituality depth. Naturally I see the link between the two that embodiment enables. On the mechanistic level it indicates that the tools are well used; awareness, internal, acceptance, relaxation, structural alignment, balance and freedom and energy to move; all of the centring techniques presented encourage these fundamentals. Because we live in a Western medical paradigm that tends to see health as just the absence of sickness, it is not habitual to focus on the deeper aspects of grace. We can all become more centred and more graceful, and what is available at such depth is much more than just no stress or even wellbeing. What is available is our magnificent human potential which makes what is now an acceptable pass in health terms look like the paltry embryo of possibility.
On the 10 Laws of being a body (from “Embodied Facilitator Course” Blog)
Our current situation, relationships, culture, disposition and the environment are all embodied. We are layered adaptations to context and history.
The body reveals what’s familiar. We feel “at home” in what we have practised, and it feels easy.
Delight reveals what’s needed or longed for.
The body reveals our way of being in all things.
Inability to follow a form reveals habitual patterns. Habits assert themselves unconsciously and are exposed by form.
The body can guide our life. When listened, to the body gives wisdom. Not too be confused with comfort!
We are always practising (unconsciously or consciously) and become what we practice. We can learn to embody new ways of being over time.
The body reveals and learns by exaggeration, contrast and embodied differentiation of new distinctions.
9. The social
We learn in relationship. By being witnessed and naming something to others we deepen insight and declare new futures.
We can transfer embodied learning into daily life by creating micro indicators and asanas, and by designing a practice routine.
The body is a process (verb), and it benefits us to listen and follow.
The fight-fight-freeze and craving responses can be managed by though relaxation, expansiveness and structural alignment
Shadow is revealed by triggering and infatuation
The body is free and has no laws! ?
Developed for Embodied Yoga Principles and through teaching The Embodied Facilitator Course, drawing from Paul Linden, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Wendy Palmer, Stuart Heller, Ginny Whitelaw and Dylan Newcomb.
On body/mind education (from “Embodied Facilitator Course” Blog)
I can imagine a world where bodymind education is a normal part of growing up; where embodied systems such as yoga, martial arts, meditation, trauma release etc are taught as standard in schools, and everyone has access to the benefits of them; where everyone – not just an elite who can decode the jargon and afford the fees – is able to return home to their bodies.
This may seem a big ask, but remember that once, most people couldn’t read and write, except an elite caste. Now most can. Today, most people aren’t somatically “literate”, but this need not be the case. My challenge to other teachers in embodied fields is this: how do you democratise this work? I have very expensive courses, but have also made a life’s work of spreading this stuff freely online (thanks, Monika Gross, for the recent podcast chat that sparked this – coming soon). You can have your cake and share it too.
So, DARE to envision a world where embodiment is normal, where the extraordinary has become commonplace, where our special tools are taught as basic foundations for living.