Awakin Calls » Wendy Palmer on Jul 20, 2019

Leadership as Embodied Spiritual Practice: Aikido and Mindfulness

How has embodiment and physical movement been an important component of your spiritual practice? Share Your Reflection »


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Call with Wendy Palmer

Jul 20, 2019, 9:00AM PST


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Wendy Palmer is a teacher and leadership coach who shares the wisdom she has gained from her many years of experience in studying both mindfulness and the non-violent Japanese martial art of Aikido. She teaches with compassion and humor about body intelligence and how to become more connected with one’s strength, dignity, and warmth in order to be more “noble, awesome and shiny.” She is the founder of Leadership Embodiment, a process that uses the principles from Aikido and mindfulness to offer simple tools and practices to increase leadership capacity and to respond to stress and pressure with greater confidence and integrity. Wendy holds a sixth-degree black belt in Aikido and has practiced mindfulness for more than 45 years. Wendy arrived in California in 1968. She See full.

Wendy Palmer is a teacher and leadership coach who shares the wisdom she has gained from her many years of experience in studying both mindfulness and the non-violent Japanese martial art of Aikido. She teaches with compassion and humor about body intelligence and how to become more connected with one’s strength, dignity, and warmth in order to be more “noble, awesome and shiny.” She is the founder of Leadership Embodiment, a process that uses the principles from Aikido and mindfulness to offer simple tools and practices to increase leadership capacity and to respond to stress and pressure with greater confidence and integrity. Wendy holds a sixth-degree black belt in Aikido and has practiced mindfulness for more than 45 years.

Wendy arrived in California in 1968. She was involved with the music scene at the time and was working in a health food restaurant when she accompanied other young people attending an Aikido class. Aikido is a non-violent Japanese martial art, the practice of which incorporates the philosophy of "extending love and compassion especially to those who seek to harm others." When she first saw the movements of Aikido, Wendy “felt a sense of coming home – a returning – like waking up and remembering the part of myself that hungers for essential contact with the universe.”

Wendy had grown up around horses and Aikido has a similar way of working with intensity and power, grace and beauty, that she remembered from being around horses.  She realized that Aikido provided a way that she could study with her body what she had been studying with her mind, as she had been interested in Buddhism and had been on a spiritual quest from childhood. Aikido helped her to train her body to be more relaxed and open, more inclusive in stressful situations. In 1976 Wendy co-founded the Dojo Aikido of Tamalpais in Sausalito, California, where she is chief instructor.

Leadership Embodiment is the culmination of Wendy Palmer’s efforts to bring the principles of the two traditions so important to her, Aikido and mindfulness, into everyday life in a way that everyone who is interested can access them. It evolved out of what she was experiencing in Aikido practice and on her meditation cushion as a way of taking these tools "off the mat and into the world of everyday physical, emotional and psychological stresses.”

The three competencies of Leadership Embodiment focus on developing greater capacity to work with intensity and on being relaxed, open, and able to see possibilities. These competencies are inclusiveness (we are in this together), listening for the whole (how to be relaxed under stress), and speaking up clearly, without aggression. The techniques that Wendy teaches help the people with whom she works to use more of their potential as they develop confidence, compassion, expansiveness and wisdom. One such technique consists of calling on one’s Posse, those people who provide inspiration in areas where we may feel lacking, and inviting them to come through oneself to provide whatever is needed in that moment. 

Wendy has worked with executive teams and individuals for Twitter, Genentech, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, The Gap, NASA, Gates Foundation, Salesforce, McKinsey and Company, Oracle, Google, Unilever, the BBC, Accenture, Blackrock, George Washington University, Eileen Fisher, The Daimler Chrysler Group, Pfizer and the U.S. Forest Service.  She has advised on general strategies of leadership embodiment and presence, and including issues of women and power.   She is the author of three books, The Intuitive Body: Discovering the Wisdom of Conscious Embodiment and  Aikido (2008),  Leadership Embodiment: How the Way We Sit and Stand Can Change the Way We Think and Speak (2013, with Janet Crawford), and The Practice of Freedom: Aikido Principles as a Spiritual Guide (2016), with a supporting CD and DVD.  

Wendy serves as an Advisor on the Council on Sport and the Embodied Spiritual Practice of the Fetzer Institute, which sponsors projects to integrate mind, body and spirit through sport and embodied spiritual practice in the United States, Jamaica and Africa, raising the awareness of the power of love and forgiveness to educate, inform and inspire people to live to their greatest potential.

In the words of one of her former Aikido students, “Wendy brings personal depth, deep compassion, and a tremendous body of knowledge to her work. Wendy is a living treasure.”


Five Questions for Wendy
What Makes You Come Alive?

I love sharing the Leadership Embodiment work with people. In person, online or over the airwaves it is such wonderful feeling to offer practices that have helped me so much and that allow people to connect to their centered, resourceful, universal selves. I really enjoy it when people ask me questions about the work my creative juices begin to flow and my intuition kicks in. Sometimes I am surprised by what comes out of my mouth, I believe it means that I am a conduit for wisdom and compassion to come through me.

Pivotal turning point in your life?

When I first saw the movements of aikido, I felt a deep sense of coming home a returning like waking up and remembering the part of my self that hungers for essential contact with the universe. It was the sense of joining with power, beauty and grace in the intensity of a martial art. The Buddhists call if tantra, the experience of knowing real satisfaction from entering the energetic vortex of universal life and breath rather than standing back and observing.Since that time I have dedicated myself to exploring the spiritual principles embedded in the forms and philosophy of aikido. I continue to endeavor to bring these principles to the world in a way that is accessible to everyone.

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?

I was in Bhutan with a group. We were walking on a path and in the grass by the path there were two women sitting on a blanket eating a simple meal. One of the women said, "Are you hungry, would you like some food?" It touched me deeply because they had a small amount of food and yet they were willing to share their simple fare with us.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?

I have been thinking about this question and what comes up is what I really want is to share the Leadership Embodiment practices with anyone who is open exploring them. I believe that if I stay open to possibilities and pay attention I can respond to opportunities that arise.

One-line Message for the World?

Uplift your posture, expand your personal space and think of something that makes you smile you can be Noble, Awesome, and Shiny.

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