Ambassador before Advocate

Ambassador: a person who acts as a representative or promotor of a specified activity.

Proposed actions for various groups:

  • Promote the success of your arts students. Tell the stories of their triumphs and acts of creation all the time. All. The. Time.
  • Represent the body, the container for the whole person, in every interaction.
  • Proactively care for yourself, gratefully acknowledging what your body has done for you and how far your spirit has soared. Reminder: an inch is still an admirable distance.

Advocate: Publicly recommend or support.

Proposed actions for all groups:

  • Tell the stories with the support of data and anecdotal evidence.
  • Understand the greater landscape so you can hold up your experience to that of the others with perspective, relevance, and specificity.
  • Gather the others.

Advocacy works best if we have been a present and vocal ambassador all along.

Change starts with us and ripples out. What are you seeking to change?

I can help you connect to yourself, to others, and to big ideas. Transformation happens in community.

Definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary.

It Starts With the Body

In yesterday’s HVS Movement Study video, I offered an explanation for how “embodiment” and “somatic” work weave together in our ideal practice, whether that practice is for our own personal growth, for learning in a classroom or studio, or for leading into somatic work within a therapeutic space.

In my years of teaching, I have come to understand those whose first language, their way of being and of knowing, stems from the body as well as those who still innately hold body wisdom but it is primarily a learned experience before it is a lived one. Both paths lead to further learning and deepening, particular through practice yet for those who are of the latter group, there can be barriers to clearly understanding how to engage those they are teaching or counseling or parenting into a body-based experience.

The path to embodiment requires us to take an “as if” position until our practice of living physically transforms into our way of life. This can be a barrier or a tricky step when adopting a new posture, especially when doing it publicly such as in front of our students, clients, peers.

The series of videos I am sharing this week all deal with engagement in order to develop ease in that embodiment of somatic work. Connecting to ourselves, connecting with others.

It begins with starting at the “person” level of the work. Acknowledging our own existence. Then acknowledging the existence of others. In my book, this is the root of social-emotional awareness. It starts with the body.

Connecting to Ourselves

At some point, most of us have abandoned ourselves. How do we come back?

Slowly. Daily. Incrementally. Drip by drip, as all real progress is made.

Taking notice of the sensations present in the body, in order to let the soul breathe.

Playing with time and qualities of energy, slowing down long enough to invite choice and attempt to not live exclusively in habit.

Engaging in play- the kind we loved as kids. What was yours?

Be discerning in who and what gets your attention.

I will join you in this. The movement studies I am sharing with you on IG and FB help us develop our staying power. Use them as a daily practice. Log which work well for you and repeat them. Share them with those who need them, too. Offer them with “I thought you might like this” rather than a “I think you should do this”. You know what “should” does. And if you are struggling with your own “shoulds”- give yourself a break. Our work together exists in a judgement free zone and my offerings are a guide not a rule. Maybe that is your first practice in staying. Staying in the judgement free zone a minute at a time.

We don’t have to abandon ourselves anymore. We can choose to stay.

An invitation to re-wild

Many of us have tense relationships with our bodies. Frustrated by the body’s unwillingness to “behave”, we typically resort to judgement, hostility, abandonment, and even name-calling.

What if we treated our bodies the way we aspire to treat our children?

What if your relationship included acknowledgement and encouragement, guidance, and compassion?

In a recent movement study video, I spoke about developing specificity in WHY we move. For some, this might be about physical conditioning, trauma resolution or getting out of emotional and/or physical pain. For others, it might be about movement function, or personal expression.

The work we can do together focuses on integration: Function. Articulation. Meaning. Expression. Movement is the tool but it is not the work.

My invitation to you is to RE-WILD. Remember that your body is a living organism not just a mode of transportation. That organism holds your story and your spirit. Our bodily experiences impact our perspectives, funds of knowledge, relationships, and overall well-being.

What if you could develop a sense of safety within the body that can support you wherever you go, whatever you are doing?

Join me in movement studies regularly on social media. Let’s get regulated and responsive to our needs and those of others. Self-compassion leads to empathy. Vulnerability leads to change. Connection leads to community.

If you are a teacher working with students who would benefit from regulated nervous systems, let me know.

If you are a presenter or leader, wanting to know how to deepen audience engagement and connect a community, let me help bring your presentations to life and your group closer together.

The Spiral: Deepening your Teaching Practice

Movement educators:

Join me this May 24 and 25, 2019 as we:

Connect to ourselves: re-examine your motivations for teaching, your role in the studio/community, and reinvest in your creative and teaching practices. Do your actions align with your intentions? Is upholding the legacy of your discipline serving the people you are leading?

Connect to others: hold the space for those who may have experienced trauma (we don’t often know specifically who they are) through your teaching and class/studio culture and climate. Good teaching includes methods for reaching different types of learners, clients with different kinds of life experiences, and serving in different kinds of relationships. Are you creating an inclusive experience?

Connect to the bigger ideas: this includes the role of assessment in the processes of education and business, developing individual and group-class curriculum, and following-through to make the change you intend. Transformation happens when we move responsibly and authentically in community and in consciousness. Are your teaching/professional practices reflecting your ideals? Are they reflecting best practice in teaching?

Enter as you are, we engage in a judgement-free zone.

Exist in the company of like-minded professionals who are interested in living and working creatively and in integrity.

Exit with a clearer understanding of assessing how you are supporting your clients/students with best practice.

Venue:

O’Day Manual and Movement Therapy

1650 Kendale, Blvd.

East Lansing, MI 48823

Space is limited to eight participants.

Contact me at hvsouthard@gmail.com for more details. 

Breath and Substance

Not long ago, I coached a few movement educators who were going to be working with at-risk kids. We talked through a variety of approaches and strategies for allowing the kids to see themselves in the work being offered to them and in the coaching, we reached a point where I needed the educators to move.

We stood.

I invited each to inhale and exhale.

We did it again.

I invited them to change the phrasing, suggesting a dynamic expression of the breath. Though they were completing the task, there was no expression. No authentic expression, at least.

They weren’t willing to let me hear them breathe.

Yesterday, I taught a class at the beautiful, light-filled Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

We started and ended with our backs to a white wall, inhaling and exhaling. I invited participants to be aware of their willingness to hear themselves breathe, to listen to others breathe, and allow themselves to be heard by others.

We explored through movement, the option of deconstructing the hierarchy of talking over listening. Deconstructing the values placed on fancy movement over functional movement. Deconstructing the social constructs of us over them or them before us.

When we hear the breathing of others, we are naturally forced to acknowledge their existance. It can be comfortable and/or uncomfortable.

When we hear ourselves, we are naturally forced to acknowledge our own lived experience in the moment. We feel our own substance.

When we allow others to hear us, we validate our own worthiness at a most basic level. It can be, at once, impersonal and thoroughly intimate. We act on our own substance.

Are you listening to your own breath, voice, intuition, patterns of action?

Are you listening to others, willing to feel the connection before searching for separateness?

Are you allowing yourself to be heard, acknowledged, and valued?

Listen. Then assert.

Self-made Armor

To get out of a funk, I sweat or I create. To face the unknown, I armor up.

Passion as protection

One passion is handknits. In the crafting, I process my circumstances and my responses to whatever is happening in life. It becomes a safe space to pour my worries and aspirations. The product, is always flawed but it is also beautiful.

I think of the generations of women and men who have come before me, and I wonder of the stories they were processing as they were making their goods.

This bleeds over to the halls in which I walk and the public spaces I visit. Who was here before and what were they experiencing?

The Wearing

Sometimes the wearing is functional– I love warm socks. Sometimes it is intentional, as in I am entering a scenario which has some risk and when I wear the things I have made, feel the care I have shown myself, I am better armed to face the trickiness. That feels good. It is grounding.

Sometimes it isn’t knitting but it is the sketches or writing in my notebook. Sometimes it is the book pages I am working on. Seeing, reading, and reconnecting with what I know to be true and how it can be helpful to others powers me through my days and weeks.

The Wearing of Motion

The same happens with movement. When I organize my body and my movement at the start of the day, I feel armored to face what comes. My body feels engaged and connected. I am better aware of the sensations of my lived experience- the food I eat, the colors and textures I see, the temperatures I feel, and the ease or lack thereof felt when in conversation with others. My lived experience becomes slower and more informed. My ability to respond to what is happening and how I take part, shifts. I wear the product of motion, my self-care, through-out the day. It, too, is grounding.

We have choices in how we engage in life. So much of what I do is ephemeral and it can leave me feeling vague about my contributions to those around me or in my professional arenas. When I wear or record the products of my efforts, I am better apt to make decisions that support my values and remind myself of what I have offered. I choose to live beautifully by participating in the processes which make it so.

How are you living beautifully?

A Life of Quality

In both of my fields- movement design and arts education- I have taught at length about “quality of life”. The truth is, though, I am really asking my clients and students to engage in a life of quality.

It means living in presence and making choices which support our over-arching values.

It means celebrating the body through motion; acknowledging the experiences contained in the body and using a variety of movement modalities to process those experiences.

It means cultivating a creative practice. By making things- sketches, stories, supper, or hand-knit socks- we create containers for our worries and aspirations. Containers we can then pick up and put down rather than carrying them at all times.

It means we return to ourselves. And in doing so, we free ourselves to become available to others. When we move and make in community, we have the opportunity to hold the space for others and have space held for us. It is the contract in which compassion can amplify and serve as a catalyst for significant change.

It means we get back to what makes a life worth living and how each of us may define that individually and collectively.

It means living a life in which we notice, wonder, and engage.

 

 

Boundaries to Our Truths

Last week I presented at the National Dance Education Organization conference. I attended sessions which spoke to my soul, my curiosity, and my biases. Some sessions fed me. Some infuriated me. All were useful.

As typical with attending any conference at which you see faces from your past, present, and future- conversations traverse over the landscape of professional and personal histories, learnings, and practices. As my career has deviated from a pretty singular trajectory to a portfolio career model, there is a common chord which keeps sounding:

There are boundaries to our truths.

The experiences we have enjoyed may fit inside our personal space but the outlying experiences- those we may not have enjoyed, help us define those spaces.

Parallel to this, I have been mulling over the differences between industry and the field.

As my work veers onto the fringe of dance, pretty clearly planted in the world of somatics, with access to the fitness industry— I feel pulled into several directions which can be confusing and exhilarating.

The pressures include: where is my voice needed, what should it be saying, who am I saying it to, why, and what is the best platform by which to share the message.

When I fixate on being a part of an industry, I move further away from my professionally personal truth.

I start worrying about future contracts, sustainable revenue, networking, profile and image, status. I fall into the trap of comparing, mimicking, and burning out. All of it comes down to, “am I doing it right?” This is my folly, of course, because there is no doing it right. 

When I start stressing over future contracts (which has kept me in jobs which didn’t serve me), I forget myself. Rather, I am living on the fringe of my truth. When I leave the security I have now and start worrying about what happens when…. I leave my truth and start grasping. This is where I get myself into trouble. (I heard an interview of Ina Garten in which she shared that a friend told her ‘Type A people tend to try to solve the problem from outside the pond but it doesn’t work, you just have to dive in’.)

See, the advantage of being “A Hybrid” as I define it, one who doesn’t fit neatly into one professional category and whose body of work/job experiences demonstrate an array of professional intersections, is that I can make connections between ideas which many other people don’t make.

The downside is that I can connect EVERYTHING and it can be hard to develop clear pathways and I get sidetracked by what I am “supposed” to be doing. There is no “supposed to”, there is just what is.

PAUSE.

These are the moments to return to my truths. I have landed on five.
1. Live a beautiful life. (I have a clear image of what this means to me personally/ professionally). In a word, this can be reduced to Make.
2. Let your curiosity be your contribution.
3. Write.
4. Move in community.
5. Share.

These help me remember the larger picture. Professionally, this means I value contributing to the field more than I feel compelled to be a part of any one industry. So my platform will likely look different than those of other people in a given industry- it needs to fit me. I enjoy writing more than speaking, sharing over selling, teaching over showing. Moving tells me what to write. Writing tells me how to move others.

When I operate from this list of truths, I don’t really have to worry about next contracts or sustainable revenue because opportunities come. It is hard to remember that sometimes, but it has always been true.

My truth can bump up against or intermingle with the truths of others. The only gains are deeper understanding of what is inside that space and the location of my edge.

How is your hybridization going? What is your list of truths?