Conscious Embodiment is a system developed by aikido Sensei and author Wendy Palmer (pictured right), combining non-athletic movements from aikido with mindfulness practices.
Conscious Embodiment is a practical tool, a personal development path and has applications in business. Wendy has worked with everyone from convicts to NASA and draws on a rich body of knowledge from martial and meditative traditions. I met her through Aiki Extensions and have just attended a two day workshop with her in Kent.
One of the central concerns of Conscious Embodiment is our habits and patterns – what we do under pressure for example – and it looks at these via the honest, direct feedback of the body. When I’m grabbed for instance I hunker down and fight back, literally and metaphorically. CE stresses embodied learning – as Wendy says, “We’re smart people, we’ve read the books, but that’s not enough.” Wendy uses many of the tools I employ in Holistics – centre, breath, attention, awareness of “field” and gravity – though unsurprisingly given her experience with a degree of skill that I wont be able to match for another twenty years or so if I’m lucky. On a personal note I enjoyed Wendy’s warmth, generosity and heart – an element we agreed is often lacking from martial traditions. That being said Wendy was definitely not “touchy feely” and talked of first building inner strength as a basis for sensitivity.
Wendy had some great teaching methods – some profoundly personal and involving subtle esoteric imagery, others just cool tricks – like asking us to hold two bottles, one full of the water and the other almost empty. Holding the bottles you can easily feel which is which, until you tense up – a quick experiential demonstration of how we perceive less when stiff.
One very enjoyable aspect of the course was the idyllic, refreshing setting of Bore Place Farm. It’s kinda nice when you can hear the source of your milk mooing as you pour it on your Frosties…I mean organic wholegrain muesli. Outside of the classes I also had some fascinating conversations with Wendy and the other participants. The other folks there were mainly business coaches and corporate trainers so my Blackberry wasn’t lonely. Over great food we covered such topics as why children today are so unhappy, Buddhist love, true paranoia and Wendy’s work in prisons in relation to what it meant to be free. A question for me that arose in this group was can people teach somatics without themselves having a regular body practice, and after just a few weekend courses? I think it is testament to both the capacities of the people there and the accessible nature of Wendy’s work that everyone seemed to have personal insights, great connection and take away something that they can use.
Thanks to John Watters of Living Leadership for organising, hosting, encouraging the growth of Integration Training and giving me a lift there and back. John started an finished the seminar by inviting us to walk a beautiful paint on canvas maze. I’d walked the one in Ely Cathedral many times as a child but didn’t know that people did them as spiritual/psychological tools. If you get the chance I recommend walking one with a question in mind, observing your way of relating to others also walking or simply mindfully. If you’ve found this interesting and are working in the field then the first UK Somatics Gathering may be of interest. Coaches, martial artists, bodyworkers, dancers, etc, are all welcome. Bring your body.
If you want to get a taste for CE specifically contact Matthew (pictured with Wendy above) who runs groups in Brighton and Bath , or come to Holistics if you’re lucky enough to be in the alternative capital (Brighton).