Awakin Calls » Wendy Palmer » Transcript
Wendy Palmer: Leadership as Embodied Spiritual Practice: Aikido and Mindfulness
Guest: Wendy Palmer
Host: Kozo Hattori
Moderator: Aryae Coopersmith
Welcome to Awakin Calls. Every Saturday, we host a conversation with an individual whose inner journey inspires us and whose work is transforming our world in large and small ways. Awakin Calls are an all-volunteer-run offering of ServiceSpace, a global platform founded on the simple principle that by changing ourselves, we change the world to create a more compassionate and service-oriented society. Thank you for joining us!
Kozo: Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, depending on where you're calling in from. My name is Kozo Hattori and I'm really excited to be your host for our weekly Global Awakin Call. Welcome and thank you for joining us. The purpose of these calls is to share stories that help plant seeds for a more compassionate society while fostering our own inner transformation. We do this by holding collective conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life, who inspire us to live in a more service-oriented way. And behind each of these calls is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this space.
Today, our special guest speaker is Wendy Palmer. Thanks again for joining today's call. Let's start with a moment of silence to anchor ourselves into the space.
Thank you. Welcome again to our weekly Awakin Call, today in conversation with Wendy Palmer. As an all-volunteer offering, each Awakin Call is a conversational space that is co-created by many invisible hands. In a few minutes our moderator, Aryae Coopersmith, will begin by engaging in an initial dialogue with Wendy, and by the top of the hour, we'll roll into Q&A and a circle of sharing where we invite all your reflections and questions.
Our moderator today is Aryae Coopersmith, Aryae is a true Renaissance man. He is the author of Holy Beggars: A Journey from Haight Street to Jerusalem. He's the founder of One World Lights, which also hosts global conversations. He's worked in the tech world as an advisor. He's a father, a husband, and I consider him a wise elder. He's done it all. So Aryae, I'm really excited for this conversation today and what you're going to bring to it. I was looking over Wendy's -- what Wendy's doing with leadership, and I remember one time you told the story about ... you went in for this interview and you had no previous experience, you had no [laughter] – you weren't the most qualified candidate, but you just sat in presence and you sat with this confidence from your spiritual training, and you got the job. So it really reminded me of what Wendy is doing with presencing yourself in leadership. So I'm excited to hear this exchange. I'll hand it over to you, Aryae.
Aryae: Thanks so much Kozo. Great to be doing this call with Wendy and with you, and thank you. So I want to say a few words about Wendy and then we'll get into our conversation.
Wendy Palmer is a teacher and leadership coach who shares the wisdom she's gained from her many years of experience in studying both Mahayana Buddhism and the nonviolent 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," as she says. Wendy discovered Aikido as a young person after she arrived in the San Francisco Bay area in 1968. As a musician who became involved in the 60s Bay Area music scene, she accepted an invitation from friends to accompany them to an Aikido class -- an invitation that changed her life. Wendy is 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 with greater confidence and integrity.
The Leadership Embodiment organization, where her daughter Tiffany Palmer is her business partner and where they're joined by a team of roughly 57 associates around the world, offers training, coaching and courses around the world. Wendy has worked with executive teams and individuals from the likes of Twitter, Genentech, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, the Gap, NASA, the Gates Foundation, Salesforce, McKinsey, Oracle, Google, BBC, Daimler Chrysler Group, and the U.S. Forest Service. And in 1976, together with George Leonard -- who's been called "the granddaddy of the consciousness movement" -- Wendy co-founded the Dojo Aikido of Tamalpais in Sausalito, California, where she is chief instructor. Wendy is the author of three books: Leadership Embodiment, The Intuitive Body, and The Practice of Freedom, which includes a supporting CD and DVD. Wendy holds a sixth-degree black belt in Aikido and has practiced mindfulness for over 45 years. So Wendy Palmer, a pleasure and an honor to have you with us this morning.
Wendy: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. That was quite a roster. I never think to myself …. [Aryae laughing]
Aryae: So why don't we start with talking about Leadership Embodiment? Can you tell us a little bit? What is Leadership Embodiment? What is the practice? And what does your organization do?
Wendy: Well, Leadership Embodiment is a practice of teaching people's bodies or limbic systems how to be able to relax and be open under pressure. My experience is -- if understanding something was enough, we would all be enlightened and we would be able to act that way. We certainly all know that we shouldn't get angry over small things, and yet we do, and that's because we have a saying "the body always wins." So if we can train the body to be able to relax in what we call "low-grade threat," then we have access to our creative, compassionate, wise brain that often gets shut down when we are feeling a little bit threatened. So Leadership Embodiment -- we have some practices and tools to help people learn how to shift from their reactive state to their resourceful state when they're in what I like to call "low-grade threat."
Aryae: "The body always wins." Say more about that. What does that mean?
Wendy: Well what that means is that we definitely -- I would say almost everyone I know -- knows what would be a good way to live in terms of eating properly and not getting angry over small things. And yet we don't because the limbic system, which is the body, is on its own program. It doesn't have the complexity that the neocortex has. The limbic system is still on the savanna. It's got three possibilities: fight. flight and freeze. That's it. And you have to actually train it to be able to have alternatives to that, which is why people in sports or martial arts train so much -- so that they can relax when they're in what I like to call "low-grade threat." And then they can find creative, compassionate ways to deal with whatever the challenges are in the moment.
Aryae: Yeah, you know as you're talking, I can think about, you know, you mentioned eating. Yeah. Okay. I know I shouldn't be eating this but I do anyway. And I can think about being in traffic, you know, and I know I should be calm but I get so angry at what that stupid other driver did. [laughter]
Aryae: Yeah. And we talked about you taking us through a kind of practice of that right on this call. So I'm looking forward to doing that.
Wendy: You want to do that now?
Aryae: Shall we?
Wendy: Yes, and before we do it, I want to say one thing to set a bit of context.
Wendy: So everybody has a personal space, and neuroscience calls it a peripersonal space. And what they say is our brain tends to map what's inside of our reach as “us.” And our brain also maps our families as “us.” But when we go to the store, those people become "other." Or we go to a meeting, we may like them and be nice to them but our brain doesn't map them as part of “us.” So part of this practice is to be able to expand our personal space so that we can start to map other people as part of us. And that gives us a feeling of inclusiveness. And when people feel included they definitely relax and are less aggressive. So I'm going to talk about personal space like a bubble, which there's research to that, and that's just a little pre-context setting to this.
So, let's do this. Let's all think of something that happened in the recent past, that was annoying or irritating, not something too terrible -- and I want everyone to cross their legs and arms, if you can, and slump a little bit and tighten up. We're going to release some cortisol when we do that. So now think for eight seconds, let's think about that unpleasant event and just relive it a little bit, go into the story………(Pause)
Ok, we're going to stop because I get there in two seconds, and most people do. Now I'm going to coach us into a different, energetic state. So you're going to sit up straighter and uncross and then let's take a breath and let's imagine our breath goes up and down, instead of in and out. So as we inhale, I'd like you to lengthen your spine and think up, out the top of your head and as you exhale soften your chest and think of something that makes you smile, and we'll do it one more time -- inhale, up lift, exhale, soften down, thinking of something that makes us smile. Now with your eyes, see a point on the far wall or out the window, if you have one, and then extend your personal space, the bubble that I spoke of, so that it touches that point and then equalize it to the sides, behind you, above and below, so you fill the room or maybe beyond and you've expanded yourself. Be sure your arms are not crossed, let your shoulders soften a little bit more with gravity, and ask yourself what would it be like, if there was just a little more gratitude in this moment. Just wonder what would it feel like, if I had a little more gratitude. Okay, now let's think of that event again and as we think about it, notice, is it different at all? And it certainly is for me, when I think about it. I almost smile at it instead of thinking “what a drag.” I think, “oh, that was a little bit funny.” Was it different for you, Aryae?
Aryae: Absolutely, yeah, instead of scolding the other person, I was just sort of taking them in.
Wendy: The idea is we often say that this model is a shortcut and people in organizations love to hear that. And we say it's a shortcut because it's quicker to change our brain with our body, than it is to try to change our brain with our brain. I don't know how well you've ever done with trying to change your mind with your mind. I find it a long haul. If I change my body energy, the muscle groups, from flexors to extensors, I move from cortisol to a little more testosterone and then, when I think of something that makes me smile, I'm releasing oxytocin. So, when you have a combination of testosterone and oxytocin, I can see the big picture, I could even take risks and I feel connected. I feel warm toward people. So, that means that my brain now has access to warmth, to creativity, to compassion, to possibility, because that coaching that I did actually changed the chemicals that were being released, which changes the brain.
Aryae: Yeah, it makes sense, you know. What I love about doing this on this call, Wendy, is that we're sort of talking about what you do via the brain. And at the same time, we're talking about what you do via the body.
Wendy: Right, when you tighten up, when we get triggered, we tighten up. We release cortisol, which shuts down the creative part of our brain, actually makes us feel separate, doesn't make us feel connected, so we're not going to be able to utilize or access our resources.
Aryae: So, this leads me to another question, which is, can you tell us about, you know, you talked about the three competencies of Leadership Embodiment. What are those competencies?
Wendy: The first competency is inclusiveness and I just spoke a little bit to that. It's the message “we're in this together.” It's not just verbal rhetoric, it's an actual feeling. So if you've ever had the great fortune to be around someone like the Dalai Lama, which I've been fortunate to, or Thich Nhat Hanh or I once saw Nelson Mandela -- huge personal space and a feeling of warmth, that just touches everybody and shifts the way people are feeling. That's inclusiveness because I believe that their brain is actually mapping other people as part of them. And with Mandela, for instance, I believe his brain mapped his country as part of him. So when he said “brothers and sisters,” everybody felt the truth of that, instead of it just being rhetoric. But mostly our brain maps ourselves and our family as part of us, and everyone else becomes “other,” so it takes practice to keep expanding the personal space, inviting other people into it and that's inclusiveness.
And the second competency is listening, without taking it personally. So, listening for the whole, and the way we do that is when somebody is mean-spirited or toxic or we see the news, instead of taking it into our bodies, we let it land in the space in front of us, so we can look at it, and this comes from Aikido. So in Aikido, the attack, the punch, the strike, lands in the space, hopefully, not on my body. And then because I can be relaxed and open, I can redirect it. So if somebody says something or my own mind attacks me, which certainly I have a very strong self- critic and I can put it in the space, then I can look at it, and if I invite my inspirational, I call it my “posse” -- so I might invite Mother Teresa, who's one of my posse members, because when I think of her, I feel more compassionate -- I can be more compassionate toward that mean-spirited comment or even my own judgmental-ness.
And then the third competency is how to speak up and how to take action, without being aggressive or collapsing, in the face of resistance. And if we can do that, we imagine that our bubble becomes a triangle because the triangle is an action shape and I imagine that I have inspirational characters behind me. I use the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, the founder of Aikido and others, and I think about them and I imagine that it's like a breeze at my back, like a wind at my back. And then it helps me move forward or speak or take action because I feel as if something's coming through me. I'm not self-generating it from inside of me, it's not my small personal “me.” I believe I'm part of something bigger. And I'm a conduit for that to come through me and it gives me more resilience and helps me to take action without efforting so much. So those are the three leadership competencies.
Aryae: So it's inclusiveness, it's listening in a way where it's not personal, and it's speaking up with non-aggression.
Wendy: Yes and taking action.
Aryae: And taking action, yeah. I love the idea of a posse. What a simple practice any one of us could do, but could make such a big difference.
Wendy: Yes, I mean, when we do the exercises in our groups, we sometimes put our hands on each other's back and practice walking with support and I must say that many of us, including me, I'm not very good at receiving support. So I've been practicing, but I feel as if the universe wants to support us. If it didn't, we would all be gone, I'm sure, but we're sort of like my granddaughter, who says “no, I want to do it myself” and the universe is not there to help you. And then the only time that we really touch into that, is when we're fatigued, overtired and then we click into the zone of the flow state, you've heard that term?
Wendy: And that's, everybody will report -- they'll say things like, “it was coming through me.” So my question in Aikido was, why don't we do that all the time? Why are we just waiting until we're tired for that to happen? If it's there, it's either one of two things -- either there's a higher power that says “now you get it, now you don't,” which I'm not buying, or it's there all the time and we don't click into it because we were educated to believe that we have to do it ourselves. We were told you must do it. No one will do it for you. I wasn't told that there's huge resources around us, that will support us, if we invite them. It was interesting because, when I teach in India, they know this and even the people from McKinsey and executives, when I say that the space has an intelligent, self-organizing principle inherent in it, they say “aha yes” and when I …
Aryae: Really, McKinsey people accept it?
Wendy: … allow it, they kind of look, you know tilt their head and go what …
Aryae: Well, so can you tell us a little bit, whatever you'd like to, about your Leadership Embodiment organization. You do trainings around the world and corporations and various organizations and individuals. What's going on with Leadership Embodiment these days and what's really standing out for you and your work there today?
Wendy: Well, I'm always touched and impressed that people are so eager and want to involve themselves in the work once they taste it. So we have two levels. We do public courses and we work in organizations. In the public courses we offer the level 1 and level 2 which are taught by associates and not by me. And that's for people to start to understand the context and the basic practices and be able to make the shift in their bodies when they're under pressure. We actually use physical pressure. We push on each other so that we recognize the body tightening up and then learn how to be open, relaxed, warm and inclusive. And then the level two is a deeper dive to get to know ourselves a little bit more. We work with things like the problem of success and so on which sounds great but it's change and the body doesn't like change.
And then there's a retreat which I lead. Retreats start to be a little deeper dive even, and where we work with meditation and mindfulness, beginning to be friends with ourselves and be compassionate toward ourselves. Then once people have done that in the public arena, they can apply for the coach training and the coach training is usually six months training. It's three modules, teaching people how to transmit this to others. It's really tricky to teach other people's bodies. If you've ever had a good yoga teacher or a good pilates teacher or dance teacher, you know what I mean. It's a whole art in itself. And now there's a number of people who also want to lead the courses. So we're developing another training for people who, once they've been through the coach training, can learn to lead public courses to share it because we have people in Russia, Czechoslovakia, Asia and all over the place that actually want to share this work with their communities. It's really exciting and wonderful.
Aryae: That does sound very exciting. I want to ask you a little more about the corporate training. I was in the field of leadership corporate training myself during the last part of my career. I worked in Silicon Valley for the Tom Peters Group where we had a corporate leadership program that we did and I'm curious, how did you get started with taking Aikido and meditation -- what seems very unlikely -- back years ago, bringing that into the corporate world?
Wendy: Yeah, and we even bring wooden swords. We give all our corporate people wooden swords which they love, I must say, to teach sword strikes to energize their intention. So all of this happened in spite of me, I have to say. I never intended to do any of that. I thought I was just going to smoke pot and play music for the rest of my life. But that was not the case.
Wendy: So I was teaching a course. I was asked to teach courses by my friend George Leonard and Helen Palmer and, as I was teaching one of the courses, there was a woman who was a coach for executives and she came to one of my courses and she said, “oh I'm going to bring you in to work with my client” and I said, “okay.” So I started working with a client and then she wanted me to work with her team and then part of her team went to another organization and they asked us to come. So it's just gone like that. It's all word of mouth or people move from one organization to another or maybe they've read one of my books and they reached out or they seem to talk online. It's been very mysterious and magical. As I said, it was never like I had a vision to do it. It was always something that just showed up and I followed the invitation.
Aryae: That seems to be a big theme in your life that things showed up and you were kind of being led in the direction that you were going.
Wendy: It's always been a thing. When people say, “what do you plan?” or “what do you vision in the next few years?”, I said, “I have no idea. Just see what shows up and follow that.” And we joke about our marketing strategies is that we say "Yes".
Aryae: (Laughs) I love it. So, once you got into working with these kinds of folks like some of these executives and companies and so on, what were the biggest surprises for you? And what were the biggest surprises for your clients?
Wendy: Well, I think for me the biggest surprise was how open they could be. Just recently in the last few years I've been going every year to work with the NHS in London. And I expected them to have their arms crossed over their chest and to be very dubious about the situation.
Aryae: NHS is National Health Service?
Wendy: Doctors, the head of ICU, head of oncology and they had their jackets and their ties and their suits on and they were totally engaged. They loved it. So it surprises me how engaged most of them are and how much they love it. I think we're the only leadership development process that I know of that's not based in psychology and I think I like that. We come from martial arts and mindfulness. Psychology is problem-oriented -- trying to understand the problem -- and we figure that takes too long. We just let the problem be there and then we want to give people the resources to tap their noble awesome shiny self. Their wise self, their compassionate self, their courageous self and just let the problem be and cultivate this other muscle. The muscle that really lets people step into their potential.
Aryae: So when you do this work, what kind of changes happen with individuals that you've observed? And what about the organizations, do you see any kind of shift in the organization?
Wendy: Well honestly, we work in really big organizations. Though we work in a team but the organizations may have 80,000 to 450,000 people so I can't actually say. (Laughs)
Aryae: Yes it's a little hard to see that. But what about the teams or the local department or whatever it is?
Wendy: But I've seen that happen because when we work with a team, they all know the centering process and they know how to let things land in the space, and so they're able to keep their conversations going. When people are annoyed in a meeting and the people we work with have back-to-back meetings all day long, they'll sit back and cross their arms and disengage and then of course you have to have another meeting because you didn't have a conversation going. So the tools that we give them is – “let’s keep the conversation going” and, second, “keep the difficult conversation going.” Then they can move their projects forward. And they'll often say how much that it affects their personal lives too, although we're not hired to do that, but we're delighted when a client comes in and says, “my husband says ‘thank you’” or “my wife says ‘thank you.’” (laughs) Because when someone centers they're less reactive and when they're less reactive they can see the bigger picture and often compassion kicks in and that really allows people to move toward better resolutions.
Aryae: I have a follow-up question on this. Having worked in leadership myself in the corporate world, I would often see areas where change happens but then I would bump against limits where the organization has its homeostasis and it's just not going to change. And I'm wondering if you have found yourself in your work, a territory of what can change and what typically won't change in these kinds of organizations.
Wendy: Well, I don't like to think that way. I mean, I've worked for seven years in a prison.
Aryae: Oh, wow.
Wendy: It was a federal prison and my theory was “I'm not going to change the prison,” but if I could touch one person or if I could touch two people that day or say if I could give them a little more capacity to remember their kindness, their love and that they're a good person -- that would have been a total win experience. I knew I wasn't going to change the prison system. I mean, it's like our government. Forget it. But within that, to me, what's important, it's like Mother Teresa's small things with great love.
To be able to do that -- and the organizations, I don't know, we would have been able to affect some teams and we've affected people and I know it has helped them live, you know, in a more noble, awesome, shiny way -- to be able to feel that they have more resilience and that they're able to tap their compassion because they're all smart people. And with everyone we work with -- you don't get into a Silicon Valley organization or NASA if you're not a smart person. It's not making them smarter; it's helping them to tap their creativity and their compassion and when people know how to be warm, to think of something that makes them smile, they have much more resilience and when they know how to call in a posse, they feel ….
So people often ask me because I'm in my 70s and I work all the time and run around the world, you know, “how I do it?” And I said, “well, there's two factors. The first is to recognize that I don't do it. It comes through me.” Generating all the time. It's exhausting. And connected to that is the second component, which is not being attached to the result. If I'm attached to the result, then I get stressed because things don't go the way I want. So if people can be a little less attached to the result, of course you want to achieve it and you do your best to achieve it, but if it doesn't, then we failed and it got weird and we have to sort of turn around and learn the lesson from the failure and go on. Then the other is “don't feel like you have to do everything yourself. There's lots of energy that will help you if you open to it.” And I like to think of it as if my posse has their hands on my back because we Americans have that saying, “I got your back.” Yeah, I feel like there is energy that has our back. We encourage our clients to sometimes used their pets. Like we had one fellow, he was a German fellow, but he was even more so. …
Aryae: I'm sorry. Oh, I think Wendy, she's still on but maybe her cell signal is sort of not there right now. Wendy, if you can hear us, maybe the best thing to do is to dial in again. So Kozo, what's striking you about what you've been hearing so far?
Kozo: I just find it amazing that you go through the body to change the atmosphere, the attitude, the brain chemicals, and the brain wave. And it's so simple like she said -- it's a shortcut, it's something we can all access very quickly. I mean that little exercise she did with us, I could feel completely different in within 10 seconds and to be able to do that in a board meeting, to be able to do that with your significant other, to be able to do that with your children, is just a gift.
Aryae: Mmm … Yeah, that is interesting. And with something as simple as that exercise, we can get it. I was struck with one of the last things she was talking about in terms of doing the organizational work, that she's not worried about changing the prison or changing Google or whatever it might be, but just the individuals. I can reach this individual, I can reach that individual -- that can make a difference.
Kozo: Yeah, and I mean that's basically all we can do, right? Like literally changing an organization is changing one individual who changes another individual, etc. in a chain. I mean, very few people, I guess like the Dalai Lama, can sit and have thousands of people surround them, maybe change them all, but you know for us individuals, individual change is very, it's not only accessible, but I think it's very effective.
Aryae: You know, what I'm wondering is -- while Wendy is probably looking for a spot where she's got a better signal -- I'm thinking, Kozo, that what we might do is invite our listeners, anyone who wants to dial in right now, and share some reflections on their experience of the exercise we did or anything related to that. What do you think?
Kozo: Yeah. That's a great idea, Aryae. You can hit 'star six' on your phone if you're calling in. That's just the star button and the number six and you'll be put into our queue. Or you can send us something at ask (A-S-K)@servicespace.org. And we actually have a number of comments already on the web chat so we can also go through some of those. I've been trying to just grab some nuggets from this call and I could read a couple of those to spark the conversation. One of them that really struck me was: “the universe wants to support us but we say we want to do it ourselves. When we're fatigued or tired, we tap into the universe wanting to support us. Why don't we do this all the time? Why do we wait until we are fatigued or tired? That's such an amazing...”
Wendy: Hi, I'm with you. I'm back.
Kozo: Oh great. Great, Wendy. Wonderful.
Aryae: Yay! Well, Kozo and I were improvising and we were just inviting people to call in. So are you there?
Wendy: I am here.
Aryae: Great. Okay, so why don't we continue the conversation? Are you ready to do that?
Wendy: I am, totally. I'm on a different phone. My other phone failed, but now I'm here.
Aryae: So, okay, the phone failed but you didn't. So, you know, I'd like to sort of change direction a little bit. My understanding is that in the 70's you founded something called the Dojo Aikido of Tamalpais and can you tell us a little bit about that?
Wendy: Yes, I was studying Aikido and I was asked to teach a class at Tam High. It's a high school in Mill Valley.
Aryae: Tam High, yes.
Wendy: Yes, my Nana was teaching there. And so I taught a little class and then it was for the kids but some of the adults started coming and then they asked me to teach a class to the Adult Ed at Tam High and so I did. And I was so surprised that it grew to like 25 people. And so then Prop 13 came along and they shut down the adult funding. And so I told everybody they should go study with my teacher whose name was Robert Nadeau Sensei. And then they said to me that he scared them and they didn't want to study with him, they wanted to practice with me, which I was really surprised because I don't think I was a black belt yet.
Aryae: He was a scary guy, eh? [Laughter]
Wendy: He wasn't to me but he was to them. And so then I went to him and I said, well they're scared of you and they want to study with me and he said, "Okay, you should take your black belt test and you can open a little satellite dojo." And I was overwhelmed by that because I had been in this counterculture and wasn't feeling like I could run an organization. So I asked my friend George Leonard, who was training, who is very much of a man of the world, if he would join me -- and then my other friend, Richard Heckler, if he would join me. And so the three of us opened Aikido of Tamalpais. I think the first year we trained out of Anna Halprin's dance studio. And then we found a place in Mill Valley and we were there for 30 years. And I'm the only one left with a dojo and it's in Corte Madera.
Aryae: So what happens in the dojo?
Wendy: Well, we have several teachers who teach classes and I try to teach my style of Aikido which is ‘Aiki Heresy’. You have studied some Aikido so you will laugh about this. So I tell people, "Whatever you do, don't ground." And leaders of our body we take the word ground out of our vocabulary. And of course people would always just go “oh my gosh" and the reason is this: because if we ground, we put our weight down, and if we put our weight down because of mirror neurons, other people will put their weight down. And then in Aikido everybody gets heavy and they're harder to throw, and in conversation, that means the quality of our conversation gets heavy.
But if we lighten up, we put our weight up, the person who attacks me is -- and I am attacking something that is getting light and they get light and then it easier to throw. And our conversations, like if you think of the Dalai Lama, or Desmond Tutu: when people ask them very heavy questions about children suffering or something, we get this little giggle and then they'll answer it, but they have a way of keeping the feeling light and then they can talk about heavy things.
And so the other thing I teach in Aikido is The Blend, which is this heresy from an Aikido point of view. The idea that I have to blend with you implies we’re separate. And I need to make a connection. My view is we’re already connected. We could just relax and act as if we're connected and don't try to blend. So we're already blended from my point of view. So if everyone just acts as if we’re connected, then we go along quite naturally in flow instead of trying to make a connection. Does that make sense?
Aryae: Yeah, so you're teaching -- and again you're teaching about how to do this, this practice, and you're also teaching something about how to live life.
Wendy: Yes, in fact when I teach, we will do a technique for a while and then I'll stop, and I'll turn to people who are in the class [inaudible] and I'll ask them, "So what does this have to do with a conversation you might have with yourself? Or someone else?" I want them to think about what they're doing on that. How does it relate to…. because we spend more time in conversations than we do throwing each other down. How does it relate to that and what lessons can be learned and be taken off the mat into our lives?
Aryae: So. You've alluded several times to, you know, where you were coming from in the 60s and that part of your story, and I'd like to explore that a little bit at this point. [both laughing] That’s fun. You know, you've arrived in the Bay Area in the late 60s. Can you tell us a little bit about -- before you came to the Bay Area. Where were you living? Where were you coming from? What was your life like?
Wendy: Well, I grew up near Chicago. I went to school on the east coast and then grew up and then I came back and I went to a college just outside of Manhattan. And then when I left there, I was actually on my way -- for some reason, which I still don't understand, but I was on my way to Brazil. I decided I needed to go to Brazil. But my sister was in med school at Stanford, so I thought “well, I'll just drop by San Francisco and visit her.” And that was in 1968 and I never made it out of there and I never made it to Brazil to this day, which is funny, because I have been to many places in the world. [Aryae laughing] Yeah. I know. I got caught up in the music scene in the 60s and for about three years, I really tuned in, turned on and dropped out. Majorly.
Aryae: I can't relate to that at all. [both laughing] Were you ...were you a musician? What kind of music were you playing?
Wendy: I was married to a guy in one of the bands, and people in the Bay Area may know the band – it was called "Sons of the Champlin" [Aryae: “oh, yeah”] and it was a bit of … it was an R&B band. And then when I split up with my husband, some of us got together and we called ourselves the “old ladies.” We got together and we formed a band called the Fairfax Street Choir and we used to gig around the Bay Area, and we once actually got to open for Crosby Stills & Nash in LA. That was really exciting. It was the biggest we ever did, but mostly it was just little clubs. And the children -- sometimes when they were young, during the break, we go nurse our babies and then come back on stage for the second set. And we often had like a babysitter and with the kids in the background, because none of us, you know, had a lot of money so we would just all chip in to get someone to look after the kids while we were on the gig. It was pretty funny. The good old days.
Aryae: Wow. Very colorful! Sounds like the typical background of an Aikido Master. You know, speaking of which, can you share with us the story of how you got to your first Aikido class?
Wendy: Well, I was working at a health food restaurant. Then everybody started really hustling to get everything closed up. I said, “why are we hustling?” and they said “well, because we're going to this Aikido class” and I said “well, what is Aikido?” and they said "oh, should come." So I said “okay.” And it was like a Cheech and Chong movie. White van pulls up, we got in, and everyone was getting high and we went to the Unitarian Church in the city, and I saw my first Aikido class and I fell in love with it. And it's interesting because a few years later, I was taken to the same Unitarian Church to see Trungpa Rinpoche, my Tibetan …. the man who became my Tibetan teacher, and it also changed my life. Those two moments completely changed the direction of my life and they both happened at the Unitarian Church in San Francisco. Which I thought was interesting. Yeah.
Aryae: Wow, that is interesting. So, you know speaking of your teacher, you know, there are all of these really interesting leaders that wound up being part of your life. You know, there was George Leonard and Jack Kornfield and I didn't know about Anna Halprin -- I used to dance a little bit with her -- and Sharon Salzberg and Helen Palmer, who of the Enneagram work … and I'm just wondering, do you have any reflections on how you wound up connecting with all of these people? Have you thought about that?
Wendy: No. Honestly, it was just I think a product of that time and why and how I ended up there is a complete mystery to me. And, you know, I always tell people that, especially executives, we should have fifty percent mystery and fifty percent mastery. And we're way too heavy on the mastery in our culture these days and it doesn't leave room for the mystery. It doesn't leave room for intuition; it doesn't leave room for things to spontaneously happen. It's something I appreciate about Elon Musk -- he just makes stuff up, and he feels very like ...he's into mastery, but he's also into making stuff up and just letting stuff happen.
And so I ... it just unfolded like that and it's been an amazing journey. But it was never full of intention. It was always -- things would arise and, of course, you were in that period too, so you know that amazing things just happened. I mean, I made friends with Wavy Gravy, and all kinds of people. But it was just such an incredible time to be in the Bay Area, as you remember yourself.
Aryae: It was, indeed, and it sounds like it fits into the -- or it's part of the story of your life, of how things have just unfolded and the universe is carrying you in a certain way, and you just have learned how to go with it.
Wendy: Well, and that's, you know, what I really encourage people with ... invite ... open to see what will happen instead of trying to control everything and organize everything, and have to be experts in everything. It's just be in wonder. Be an invitation. Take a little time to wait and see. It’s like, if we take a moment and invite something, it can show up. Except that we're too busy grasping and grabbing a hold of trying to make everything be safe and secure. And you know, in the end we are going to lose everything. Unless you're Egyptian, you don't get to take any of it. And so if we could just relax and work with our fear of loss and see if we can relax with it a little bit, I think we would all have access to so much more kind of amazing possibilities in our life.
Aryae: What beautiful wisdom to follow. [Wendy: Thank you.] So Wendy, early on in this call, you talked about being in your 70s and, you know, as another Old Hippie, I can relate to being in my 70s and I just want to ask you...Where do you see your life going from here? What's your vision of, you know, what you imagine is next for you?
Wendy: I have no idea. I mean I have to follow what comes up. And things keep unfolding. Sometimes I joke with my daughter Tiffany. Running the business, we think, “Okay, well, this year nothing will happen and we’ll just have to cut back.” Then, the woman who is our assistant laughs and says, “Yeah, you've been saying that for years and you keep growing.” But it does happen and I have no idea where it'll take me. I was working in organizations and thought that was where we were going primarily. Then, all of a sudden, trainings became a thing. We're still working in organizations. Now, we're doing both and who knows? And also, you know, I have this wonderful app. I recommend it to everybody. It's called “WeCroak,” costs 99 cents, and is very simple. When you open it, it quotes a Bhutanese folk saying, “Thinking about your death five times a day brings happiness.” They send five quotes each day.
Wendy: Some of them are beautiful; some are poetic. And it's not so much the quotes, although there's a great Jerry Garcia quote that says, “I don't know how you will die or when you will die, but I can tell you your death will be authentic.”
Wendy: Yes, funny. We have a Leadership Embodiment app, too. I have that set for every hour. So those are the only two little notices that come up on my phone. My phone gives notice either that I'm going to die or that it’s time to center. Either way, I’m reminded to be here for this moment.
Aryae: A Leadership Embodiment app… I should have known when I asked you the question that you would answer me like that. That's great. I just have one more little piece I'm curious about and then we'll turn the call over to Kozo and to listeners who may want to ask questions. This week in our Daily Good publication, we published an article by you from an integration training in the UK where you talk about “soft power.” What is soft power?
Wendy: You could think about it vocally as when an opera singer sings a soft note and yet it touches the entire auditorium. You think “softness” when somebody has that kind of warmth. They feel soft, accessible, and more porous. Soft power creates connection. When you have connection, people are much less likely to be aggressive and more likely to be open and to listen. It's a huge kind of strength. Also, from a martial point of view when I'm working in Aikido, I say, “If you can't feel it, he can't fight it.” So I try to make my technique so soft that people can't feel what I'm doing and then they can't fight. So it's that power of gentleness. The Dalai Lama has soft power. He's warm, he’s gentle, but he's very clear in his message.
Aryae: Mmm. Got it. Wendy, thank you so much. I think it's time for the next phase of our conversation. Kozo, over to you.
Kozo: Beautiful. It's such a wonderful conversation. Thank you, Aryae, for hosting. We invite all callers to hit “star six” on your phone to be part of the conversation. You can also email us at “ASK@servicespace.org.” We already have a number of people who emailed or web chatted, people from all over the world, so we have a lot to get through.
We have a caller on the line, but I'm going to use my host privilege to ask a question that I've been thinking about, Wendy, before we get into all the callers. I love the way you're taking principles of Aikido out into leadership and into daily life, into relationships, into a lot of the things that you are teaching us. Even that simple exercise I can see using in my relationship with my significant other and with my children. So, thank you for that. It's beautiful. I think soft power is the best way to guide children, in my eyes, because they're so receptive and tender. And, in my experience, hard power doesn't work on them.
But what I wanted to ask you is a question I have that’s related to Aikido. It came up when you said, “If they can't feel you, they can't fight you.” I was never that great at Aikido. My technique wasn't very good but, for some reason, I was a good faller. I could roll; I could slap on the mat. So I was often asked to be the “Uke,” the person who attacks the master and gets thrown. So all these different masters threw me all over the place. And, when I attacked a really advanced Aikido master, I wouldn't feel a thing. The next thing I knew, I’d just be rolling. What I found really interesting is that when I attacked really, really good masters, they'd almost make me roll better than I was able to roll on my own. They threw me in such a way that it encouraged me to roll perfectly almost. It's an amazing thing to make an attack and not to feel anyone touching you but the next thing you know, you're in this perfect role, right?
And so my question is, there's this principle. I don't think it's a principle of Aikido but it's something that I picked up on by being a Uke so often…learning by falling and learning by being thrown. I found that the more I was thrown, the softer I became. You know just slapping on the mat, right, you have this really hard slap. And then you have to soften because, if you slap too hard, you're going to hurt yourself or you're going to hurt the ground or something. And so there's this idea that I experienced where I softened, I learned, I became more in touch with my body, and more in touch with others by being thrown. And I'm wondering if we can take that into leadership, into relationships, and things like that and kind of mix it with Mark Zuckerberg’s “Fail early, fail a lot.” I’m wondering if there's something there that we can connect. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Wendy: Well, yes. I think the principle of taking the fall can be that you give yourself and you surrender. I think the equivalent of that, too, is feedback and part of feedback is failure. That’s a big word and, when organizations use it in feedback, everybody tightens up. And so to be able to relax with that, receive feedback, and surrender to and learn from that, it definitely allows people to go forward with more possibility. I like Roger Federer. He's one of my favorites and he always says that when you win you get to take the confidence, when you lose you get to take the learning. So it's the idea of surrendering and softening and receiving feedback that would be the conversational equivalent.
Kozo: Wonderful. And so, a practice that you can do in the business world and in relationships is, when you're getting feedback, to go through the exercise you showed us—soften and maybe open your arms in a surrender type of position where you're actually taking it in rather than not taking it in.
Wendy: Right. Well, actually, let it land in the space. So, when I'm throwing, I'm throwing the space around the person. I don’t throw the person. That's why they feel it's soft and that's why they feel they have a ramp to fall on because I'm throwing the space.
[Few words indecipherable]
Kozo: I sense there's something really powerful there and I'm wondering if you can expand on it a bit for people who maybe don't know Aikido.
Wendy: Okay. So we are primarily space. We are made up of a gazillion atoms and the atoms are primarily space. So we're much more porous than we like to think of ourselves. We think we're solid. We're not. That's only a partial truth. We're also very much space. So, if I’m throwing a big guy who's twice my size, I can’t throw him. I’m a small woman. But, if I have a nice, beautiful line and I really think of the space as a breeze flowing through me, that person becomes part of the breeze, part of the space. So if I'm giving criticism, I don't give it to the person. I just put the criticism out there into the space and the person can receive it or not; rather than it being so personal.
Kozo: Mmm, wonderful. Beautiful, that's part of inclusiveness as well in that it's a shared space, right?
Wendy: We share the same space; we breathe the same air -- exactly.
Kozo: And if you break it down, we are the space; all the things are space -- everybody.
Kozo: Yeah, that's wonderful. Thank you, Wendy. I'm taking notes for my being a parent and for being in a relationship and for all different things. Thank you so much. We have a caller on the line. I'm gonna go to her.
Wendy (Caller): Hi, this is Wendy from Half Moon Bay. I've got two questions. First question is: I was listening about your background in music and I'm wondering if you use music in any of your training or any of your practice. And the other question I have is: I was interested to hear that you were working with the National Health Service in England. Having been a health care practitioner for many years, you know in our environment, we may be seeing a patient every 15 minutes and there's always so much coming at you from all directions and so many interruptions. How can you use your training in that kind of environment where everything is happening so fast? I can see in a corporate situation you might have time to sit and think, sit and feel. But when things are coming at you so fast, how are you able to soften and use your training in that kind of situation?
Wendy: Thank you for the question, Wendy. So, the 20-second centering which is the one I took you through: “inhale uplift, exhale soften, think of something that makes you smile, extend your personal space and invite inspiration.” We have a five-second centering. We could say to ourselves: “uplift, expand, soften.” Or the “noble, awesome, shiny” which came from an Aikido teacher of mine, Japanese man, who was trying to communicate what he was looking for. He said: "I want to see you noble; I want to see you awesome; I want to see you shiny." So, noble is uplifting; awesome is expanding; shiny is the warmth.
Or we have one-second centering, came from a DC General Counsel I was working with in an organization. She couldn't sustain it because she was a very tight person by nature. I said, “well, you don't have to sustain it. You just have to do these constant little quick repetitions.” And she said, “like a lizard push up?” So, if you’ve ever seen lizards when they're establishing their territory, they're very cute. They straighten their arms and push up and then go down. We call it a lizard push-up where you just extend everything out and when you do that you open up a little bit. So, all of these centerings -- one is 20 seconds, one is 5 seconds and one is 1 second -- will change your state of being. If you do them frequently, then you won't flat line with stress as much. You'll still be stressed, of course – we all are – but you can touch into a more resourceful place.
Music. I never play music in my work, but I could refer to it. In music, if you put tools together that are dissonant, if you put a rift between them, they become melodic. So, when you start relating to the space in the music and the great musicians who can put some space into their music – I used to play Jazz – it just changes the feeling quality of the music. And the other thing I talk about is what Bruce Lee, who is one of my heroes, said: "I can beat anyone if I can change their rhythm." He used to listen to Indian music which has 16s (beats). The ones that were the most useful one, he had more energy. So, when he would put himself in a certain rhythm, he could take the other person out of their rhythm and then he could affect them. So, that's my response to the music and the fact that you can center in seconds. I tell the doctors that, and they're like “okay.” They could do five seconds.
Wendy (Caller): Thank you very much.
Kozo: Wendy, we have a number of people from all over the world who are typing into the web chat. I'm just going to read some of these and then you can offer any comments or answer any of the questions. So, from Bombay, Sonia said that “Each time I have felt stuck, movement has helped me. I often try to remember what Rumi said: ‘don't burden the spirit with what your body can solve.’ I would love to invite you to Bombay to share your work.” So you have an open invitation to Bombay there, Wendy.
Wendy: Well, she can email me through the website and we'll have a dialogue about it.
Kozo: Wonderful. Then, there's a bunch of [other comments]. I apologize to all the people who are typing into web chat. There's far too many of these for us to get to read in the time, but I'll get to as many of them as I can. If I leave you out, I'm sorry. Jane Weston says “I experienced Aikido for a short time some years back and have been involved in various dance movements over the years and some meditation. However” -- and this is interesting, so, I'd love to hear your comment on this one – “I have always had a bit of an adversarial relationship with my body. It is strong and fairly robust, and I have enjoyed the strength, but from a mechanical point of view. I always thought leadership was something only a number of mavericks have. I've tended to use aggression to get my results. Sometimes because I had to; sometimes because I was fearful and needed that defense.” And she says “I'm experiencing ageist, sexist treatment in my 60s. I realized that anger could be powerful if I harnessed it more effectively. Looking forward to your talk.” So, I'm curious what your response to that would be like. In a world where many people see leadership and strength as kind of that mechanical aggressive, overpowering type of movement, what would you offer to that mindset?
Wendy: Well, size matters, and that's why, when we get angry and aggressive, we can get things done. One with the biggest size wins. But these days what we see and what people often do is they'll become bullies or they'll be aggressive and that's a way to get something done. So, my belief is -- and what we try to train people to do is -- how can you be big like the Dalai Lama or like Nelson Mandela and be warm and be compassionate and wise? You'll also be very focused and clear. So, a lot of times the people who are really nice are not as big. So our job as facilitators and with this work, is to teach people how to be really big without being aggressive and that's a different kind of power and it's very effective.
Kozo: Wonderful. Another question from the web chat. “Could you bring your insight to Sonia's quote: 'don't burden the spirit with what your body can solve' -- which gave me pause. I've always tended the opposite way of being in my body and my mind has held dominion over most of my existence. I tended to want to escape it because it feels heavy in the real terms and heavy to the spirit. Could you speak of the issue of grounding one selves as a key to being open?” -- which is interesting because you advocate not grounding.
Wendy: I mean you could define grounded as being grounded in a view, but you don't want to be heavy in your body because that makes your spirit heavy. The best way I know how to work where I'm looking for a different quality or way of being is to invite inspiration. So we have posse members and inspiration cards. I talk about the famous ones but they don't have to be famous. So, Mother Teresa, for me, has that feeling of warmth and compassion. Dalai Lama has the BIG picture. Nelson Mandela has courage. So, I would invite her to think of who would represent a quality of being, a physical quality of being, that she would like to inhabit and then invite that energy -- think about it, imagine it, open to it; because that's the quickest way to shift one state of being.
A view of the body is just a state of being. You could change that view. So, who's light, who's open, who has attractive attributes? In our posse cards, we used to have people like Grace Kelly and people loved that. You know, if you remember her, she was a wonderful actress back from the 50s and 60s, and she's so beautiful and so elegant. So you can think of that inspiration and then invite that inspiration to come to you. That would be one way to address it.
Kozo: Wonderful. Another reflection from Nadine. “Tai Chi Chuan opened my entire being when I began the practice four years ago.
It essentially saved my life such that I'm now on a path of doing similar work to Wendy’s which has emerged to include my life's work. I look forward to the speaker. Thank you. I'm grateful to have discovered these resources.” So, that's one thing, I think, I invite you to touch on, Wendy. So Tai Chi, obviously with the strong Chi component and Aikido with the Qi component. I noticed you said that a number of times you feel yourself being a conduit rather than an actor. I'm wondering if the concept of Chi or Qi apply there, or if that's even part of the process.
Wendy: Oh yeah. There's four principles that came through [inaudible] Sensei or Sensei’s top student. One of them got translated in English as “extend your Qi.” It's “relax completely, wade on your side and so on.” Everybody talks about extending their Qi. I had a student, who is Japanese, who went back to Humble Dojo, which is the main Center in Tokyo, Japan. He read the calligraphy and he says “it doesn't say 'extend your Qi'. It says 'Qi is extended'.” I will leave it to the Americans to manufacture something that's already going on.
So, it is there. It's just a question of relating with it, and then inviting and encouraging. It's not like we have to do it. We just need to open to it. At least, that's my view. Doing it is tiring. And then you get tired, you stop doing it and you feel like it goes away. If you open to it and invite, it's always there.
Kozo: It reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer. “Lord make me an instrument of thy peace” or “Lord make me a vessel of thy peace.” Peace isn't something that you -- you don't make peace; you don't force peace. You just become a vessel. You become a channel and clear the way for peace to come through. Along those lines, Wendy, for us beginners, what do you find is the easiest way to clear ourselves to make ourselves become that channel, because so many of us are clogged with either trauma or ego or tension? So, how would we clear to make ourselves that channel, to make ourselves that conduit?
Wendy: Well, it's a question of concentration. Neuroses is what I think you're referring to, I like to call it, in a non-pathological way, but we all are neurotic. There's cultural neuroses and personal neuroses and we're all trying to create security and we all feel huge amounts of concern and irritation. And, that's like an IMAX theater. It's like a big screen, a big sound system and gives you big sensations. Often spiritual practice or centering practice is like a little small, you know, 10-inch screen. So it's up to us to make the concentrations, the practices that made us feel “noble, awesome, shiny.” Make them more juicy.
I like to think of heaven and earth running through me and it's like a double helix. So, the Earth is spinning a thousand miles an hour and it has a tendency to pulling things off, that's the uplifted quality, and then there's gravity. So, we can imagine that we have like a DNA strand coming through us. Or a bird soaring: when a bird is with the thermal, it soars upward on the inside of the thermal and it flows downward on the outside of it. We could just concentrate on that sense -- maybe soaring upward on the inhale and floating downward on the exhale and then have a more vivid sense of inspiration. Who really inspires us -- think about them, have a lot pictures of them around. The more you do that, your attention starts to engage with those concentrations which then change your state of being so that your system isn't re-traumatizing itself over and over again by trying to figure out what's wrong. Just stop trying to figure out what's wrong and start concentrating on, whether it's visual, auditory, kinesthetic.
I have another great one I love that involves all three. It comes from a Tibetan practice that I just sort of tried to make simple. Ask myself, if my hips were like a mountain and I invite my favorite Mountain into my hips. I'll go through this more quickly, but you can spend as much time as you want there. And the next is, if my heart was like the sea or water. And then I just invite that feeling or maybe throw water or the ocean into my heart. And the third one is -- if my mind was like the sky and I look at night sky. I just think of all the beautiful stars and expanding. And when I'm doing that concentration, I'm not worried about what happened to me or concerned about what might happen to me. I'm in a positive state of being and that starts to heal my body. So people need more concentrations, juicy ones, better ones because you're up against your neuroses, which is really vivid. So, what you gotta do is up your positive concentrations; put your body into a state of well-being and balance and vitality.
Kozo: I just did that really quickly, Wendy -- with the hips-mountain, heart-sea, and mind-sky and it feels like heaven on earth.
Wendy: It gives us a timeout from our reactive self. So, we just need to take lots of timeouts from our reactive self. It won't go away, but we could think of it as compost. I'm an avid gardener and you always have to put compost in the soil and compost is shit. If you treat properly and put it on the soil, then beautiful things grow. So, all of our meanness and resentment and insecurities are compost. If we can befriend them, be kind and relax with them, they become the basis of our wisdom and compassion. So, that's the mindfulness -- its making friends with ourselves and learning how to be kind and tender with ourselves.
Kozo: Hmm, you mentioned Thich Nhat Hanh and he has this wonderful poem. It just says “no mud, no lotus.”
Kozo: We have another reflection from David Doane. He says “I know as the saying goes, ‘I am a spiritual being having a physical experience.’ Since I, like everyone, am an expression of God, embodiment and physical movement are expressions of God. That awareness growing in me over the years has resulted in my valuing my body and my embodiment and my actions -- as part of my spiritual practice and has resulted in my being more compassionate with myself, others, and this planet.” I think he's tapping into something that I'd like you to comment on, Wendy. When we see our body as part of this “Universal Divine,” doesn't have to be just God in the Christian sense, then compassion grows and connection grows. I'm wondering if that type of spiritual element enters into your practice of this inclusiveness.
Wendy: Yes. I mean very much that. You know, I consider as being connected to heaven and earth -- spiritual and being connected to compassionate teachers -- inviting them to come through. It's all spiritual. I mean all this is … it's just a question of relating with it. And we can choose. You know, there was a line from the “Dhammapada”, which is sort of like the Tao te Ching, a Buddhist version, the Buddhist words -- and it goes something like this: “the way an irrigator makes the water go where he wants; so a wood carver carves a block of wood; so the wise shape their mind.” I was really inspired when I read that because I thought I don't have to live in such a negative place. When I was a child, I was very dark and very negative and it's still there, but it's no longer headlines. We can train our mind. There's a whole Buddhist Mahayana practice; it's called Mind Training. You can train your mind to think differently. Michael Pollan just wrote a book, How To Change Your Mind -- it's about taking drugs. He's a wonderful writer and an author. We don't have to be stuck in those places. We can do something about it. It will take practice. It will take discipline. And it will take creativity to be able to find things that inspire us and concentrate on them. That's spirituality in my view.
Kozo: Wonderful. It brings up one other thing, you mentioned having the posse and channeling these ascended masters or wise teachers. It reminds me, I come from Hawaiian culture. In Hawaiian culture, we have our Kupuna. Our Kupuna are like our spirit guides, our elders who have passed away like our grandfathers and our ancestors. And so one of my Hawaiian Elders, she says, you know, when we're having a conversation it's not just us having a conversation. It's our Kupuna talking through us to each other. In Hawaiian spirituality, the Kupuna are always there. They are always going through you. I'm wondering if you had any experiences. There's one thing where you channel someone you like you are trying to embody, somebody who look up to like the Dalai Lama -- when you are trying to channel that same compassion or wisdom but I'm wondering if you've had an experience where you've actually had like a conversation or guidance from some spiritual elder or some ancestor or somebody who's passed while practicing this practice of inviting the posse as a conduit.
Wendy: Oh, absolutely. I mean to me it's possible to have conversations with almost any entity. The spirit of you know, Redwood. The conversation that I have with the Redwoods are just deeply touching because Redwoods are the most elegant trees in the world. They go up and they are very, very old and a lot of them have been burned by fire and they still go on. There's this kind of feeling that I get when I'm hanging out with a Redwood and I'm touching it or leaning against it. So, the intuition we have access to allows us to communicate with anything. The rocks -- I have a friend who's a geologist and he always says that rocks are like people only they move more slowly. I think it’s cute. But definitely, especially, when I was spending more time in the counterculture. I would have lots of conversations with spirits of animals and trees and rocks and and it still goes on. I've definitely been in Hawaii; eaten things from the cow patties and for sure spirits come and show up and talk to me. So yeah, that whole world is very much accessible.
Kozo: Yes it reminds me of “50% mastery, 50% mystery.” It's inviting that mystery in and actually listening to it rather than denying it.
Wendy: Exactly, exactly.
Kozo: I think we have time for one last comment. And, like I said, I apologize to those of you whose comments I didn't get to. So, Shobhana, aka Shobhi, says “I've learned over the years to be mindfully present to all of life. Whatever I need to know either falls in my lap or comes sailing through the air. So I listened.” This is a perfect segue. “When I moved into an artist loft in NYC, by chance, it was above the NYC Aikikai Studio. Aikido has given me strength of presence, not just physical but emotional and spiritual. When I moved to Berkeley, my new roommate gave me a clown class for my birthday. One of our classes clowned at Shriners Hospital for Children. I became a hospital clown. What a joy to be 82 years old with a six-year-old living inside. I look forward to hearing how others live their lives.” It sounds very similar to you, Wendy, where she's kind of just flowing with things. She's not having the intention to become an Aikidoist or a hospital clown. She's following the flow and following that six-year-old inside of us. I love that image.
Wendy: It's a wonderful analogy; it’s beautiful and definitely she's a sister of the mystery. I can feel it.
Kozo: Mmm, yeah. You know, it's interesting when you look at cheetahs -- Aikido has given me strength of presence not just physical but emotional and spiritual. It's that lightness. I was trained in Tow Hey Sensei Aikido where you know weight underside, right? And so you grounded to the ground. You get all your weight underside and focus on one point, in the 'Haata' -- two inches below your navel. So, it was a stance of grounding, you know, standing there. Like a mountain, I won't be moved. I loved how you change that to “don't ground and lightness and kind of be like a leaf”, right? Like “go where you need to go, flow where you need to flow. If that's being a hospital clown, then hospital clown.” There's lightness in that and there's a beauty in that and there's service in that. It is Aikido heresy. But now that I think about it, it is actually more being with the Qi than when you’re left grounded because you can flow more with where the Qi and the Chi is flowing.
Wendy: Yes, I mean you can be much more adaptable. I once had a friend years ago -- was trying to learn a form and I was asking about the footwork. He said, “I can't tell you about the footwork, but I can tell you how to be in the right place at the right time,” which I thought was really cute. So if I'm not so rooted, I can move more easily. I'm more adaptable. I can shift and be right place at the right time.
Kozo: Wow, there's so much wisdom and lightness and beauty here. Wendy, I want to thank you so much. Aryae, did you want to have some last comments before I close this with a moment of silence?
Aryae: Well, thank you Kozo. You know just a question that we would ask you, Wendy, which is how can we in the ServiceSpace community support your work in this world?
Wendy: Aww, that's very kind of you. Just, you know, if you're interested in it, you could look through the website or the books and just see if it resonates with you. And, also if any of what I said resonates, the idea is to take it and develop it for yourself so that you can have more resilience and more compassion in all that you do in the world -- whoever you are. Any way in which we can continue to spread these practices and these tools, as long as we're being helpful -- that's the goal. So I certainly hope people will, if they're interested, look at our work, go to the website and we all are on this path together. So, the more we can we can find our noble our upliftedness, our awesome our expansiveness, and our shiny our warmth, the better we will be able to make a positive contribution.
Aryae: Thank you so much for sharing this time and this space and this flow with us.
Wendy: No, it's my pleasure. Thank you very much.
Kozo: Thank you. So, we like to end with a moment of silence. I encourage everyone, in this moment of silence, to be noble, be upright and expand outside, even beyond the four walls of where you're sitting, and be shiny. We'll end with about a minute of Silence.
Thank you. Thank you for another wonderful...thank you so much, Wendy. Thank you Aryae. Hope everybody has an awesome, shiny, noble day.
Wendy: Yes, absolutely. Many blessings.
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