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Wendy Palmer: Leadership as Embodied Spiritual Practice: Aikido and Mindfulness

Nuggets From Wendy Palmer's Call

Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Wendy Palmer.

Wendy Palmer is a leadership coach who teaches how to become more connected with one’s strength, dignity, and warmth in order to be more “noble, awesome and shiny.” She uses the principles from Aikido and mindfulness to offer simple tools to increase leadership capacity. Wendy holds a sixth-degree black belt in Aikido and has practiced mindfulness for more than 45 years. Aikido is a non-violent Japanese martial art 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.

Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me ...

  • The body always wins. If we can train the body then we can have access to our compassionate, wise brain.  "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."
  • It is quicker to change our brain with our body than trying to change our brain with our brain.
  • The Universe wants to support us, but we say we want to do it ourselves. When we are fatigued and tired, we tap into that. Why don't we do this all the time? Why do we wait until we are fatigued or tired?
  • "'Qi is extended'. 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."
  • When someone centers, they are less reactive. When they are less reactive, they can see the bigger picture and often compassion seeps in.
    • "20 second centering [practice]: 'inhale uplift, exhale soften, think of something that makes you smile, extend your personal space and invite inspiration.'"
    • "Five-second centering. We could say to ourselves: 'uplift, expand, soften.'  Or the 'noble, awesome, shiny' Say: "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."
    • "One-second centering: We call it a lizard push-up where you just extend everything out and when you do that you open up a little bit."
  • Be in wonder. Be in invitation. Take a little time to see.
  • "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."
  • Tao: ‘'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 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. 
  • "You could think about it (soft power) 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."
Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!

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