Episode 94: Embodiment and presence as a way of life

arawanaIn this episode I have the great fortune of connecting with meditation teacher, dancer and choreographer Arawana Hayashi who is one of the co-founders of Presencing Institute together with Otto Scharmer. She is also a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist organization in addition to teaching programs on leadership and embodiment through ALIA. In co-operation with Presencing Institute she is currently leading the development of Social Presencing Theater; an embodied approach to working with transformation of self, culture and organizations. I´m also joined by three of my colleagues who, together with myself, are taking part in a three year Master Class program led by Arawana Hayashi. 

In the first part I ask about her background and she explains how the three strands of dance and art, meditation and working with social change became core inspirations for her work. Another influence came in 1974 when she met the Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa and learned about his approach to meditation in action. From this perspective meditation is not seen as a way to retreat from an aggressive or chaotic world, but rather as a way to skillfully engage life with the intention of creating an enlightened society. An important point here is seeing that there is a basic goodness to life and that we therefore only need to find ways in which we can know, feel and experience this innate goodness that is ever-present. Arawana Hayashi goes on to explain how Trungpa and his teachings inspired the work she has done around learning how to “make a true move”. For instance, how can we make a gesture, speak or create art from a state where our body, mind and heart is synchronized, and how can we come to see that every human being is in fact an art maker? Further on I ask Arawana about the notion of letting a gesture (or a question for that matter) emerge out from “open space”, and also, why such a capacity  is important and relevant for people working with leadership and social change? Following up on this thread I ask my final question related to the value of embodiment. Why is it important to counter the pervasive body-mind split we see in society today and how can we practice coming together and being able to feel our selves again?

Lone Belling (34:00) follows up on the theme of embodiment through inquiring into how we can keep an embodied presence in work settings that are often “heady” and where a lot of the communication happens through digital platforms. How does this influence our ability to feel into each other? How can we create an embodied culture that is thoroughly embedded in our communication, regardless of the medium? Arawana responds to this inquiry and points to how both the language of Theory U, and the communication culture she is used to from Schambhala, is trying to create the needed cultural shifts for  a more physical, emotional and embodied  way of communication.

Ninni Sødahl (45:30) brings back the theme of open space in regards to communication and points to the challenge of bringing such notions into the mainstream without alienating people. Arawana responds by using an example from a workshop she held that brought to the foreground how valuable it is to dwell on this question, and at the same time, how often such questions might be overlooked in our highly task oriented lives. So how can we bring mindfulness into the most ordinary acts of our day to day engagements, and how can we help to reconnect our selves to the space, our body and the people we interact with? They also discuss how to bridge the gap between the deeply meaningful experiences that emerge when we thoroughly engage artistic and embodied ways of being, and the subsequent wish to communicate and apply this wisdom in other contexts. Another interesting (and heart touching) theme emerges as they discuss how to bring the arts back onto the center stage in peoples lives, seeing it as a natural capacity that most people were connected to as children, but for various reasons lost touch with as adults. So how can we support “dried out grown ups” in helping them to reignite their hearts and souls with the natural joy and creativity that once flourished?

Kiku Day (1:04:00) takes over and inquires into the possible challenges that might emerge as we start to bring “body language” more into our daily lives, and especially so when considering that we now work on a global scale. A specific bodily gesture in Denmark could mean something totally different in China! Arawana points out the value of awareness in relation to this theme. How can we learn to respect each others “body knowing”; the subtle differences that make up our personal and cultural personalities.

We wrap up our exploration with me (James) sharing how it was to step out of the leading role and letting new voices into the mix.

If you feel inspired or provoked by our conversation feel free to add your comments after the interview. You can also send in a written piece of work and get it published together with this episode. Further details can be found here.

Episode links:
Arawana Hayashi (bio)
Social Presencing Theater
Sustainable Co-Creation
Presencing Institute
Shambahla

Co-hosts:

kikuKiku Day. Ph.D. Ethnomusicology (London), MFA Music  Performance and literature (Mills) is a shakuhachi performer and teacher and external  lecturer at Aarhus University. She teaches shakuhachi and is a founding  member and presently serving as chairperson of the European Shakuhachi Society. Read more about Kiku´s work on her own website.

loneLone Belling holds a master´s degree in political science and is a journalist, consultant and author of several books in Danish about Theory U and how to work with organizational change. She has also worked for the Danish National Broadcasting Corporation (DR). Lone has her self been a guest on the podcastshow (in Danish and Norwegian): Teori U og kunsten “at holde rummet”.

ninniNinni Sødahl holds a master’s degree in Architecture (NTNU, Norway) and is certified as a Body Therapist from SOMA (School of Oriental Medicine, Denmark). Ninni Sødahl’s specific field of work concerns the intimate relationship between outer and inner space while dealing with the unfolding of creativity as such – in the fields of personal growth, in creative learning processes, sustainable leadership and design. You can connect with Ninni through Linkedin.

James Alexander Arnfinsen (redaktør)
James Alexander Arnfinsen (34) er lærer og arbeider i Osloskolen. Han har bred erfaring innenfor dialogbasert prosessledelse, nærværstrening og konflikthåndtering. Ta kontakt med James på følgende adresse: james.arnfinsen @ gmail.com
James Alexander Arnfinsen (redaktør)
James Alexander Arnfinsen (34) is a teacher, his subjects being geography, religious studies and sports science. He is currently working as a teacher in Oslo, Norway. In his spare time he practices Aikido, a Japanese martial art.
  • James Arnfinsen

    Here is a short presentation by Arawana Hayashi about the “four levels of listening” as described by Otto Scharmer in Theory U. I hope to become more skilled in conducting interviews and facilitating dialogues that utilize and make space for all of these modes of communication (maybe not too much “downloading” though 😉

  • James Arnfinsen

    Here is a fresh public talk by Arawana Hayashi given at Duke University 20.02.14: Bringing the Body into Meditation. Highly recommended! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wVN5b_6du1Q

  • James Arnfinsen

    Here is an interview with Evan Thompson Phd., who has written the book Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. In the interview he discusses, together with host Dr. Ginger Cambell, the following: “Embodied Cognition is a movement within cognitive science that argues that the mind is inseparable from the fact that the brain is embedded in a physical body. This means that everything that the brain does, from the simplest perception to complex decision-making, relies on the interaction of the body with its environment.”

    The discourse of “embodied cognition” is, as far as I can see, highly relevant for much of the work that is now labeled as Social Presencing Theater (the developmental work led by Arawana Hayashi).
    See more at: http://brainsciencepodcast.com/bsp/mind-in-life-with-evan-thompson-bsp-89.html#sthash.fKTm0SY1.dpuf

  • James Arnfinsen

    Jeg holdt nylig en workshop i Social Presencing Theater for 45 personer. På linken under kan man lese en oppsummering der jeg forsøker å rammesette og beskrive treningen i en norsk språkdrakt: http://agent-for-endring.no/social-presencing-theater-for-unge-med-ms/

  • James Arnfinsen

    Here is a great talk by meditation teacher Tara Brach, where she covers the topic of fear, and how fear creates suffering in numerous ways. In the practice of Social Presencing Theater fear is one of the obstacles that we often encounter (referring also to Theory U and what Scharmer describes as the “Voice of Fear” which emerges as we enter the deepest part of the U-process.) This is a big one for me personally as I am often plagued by fear in many situations, for instance when doing podcast interviews (!), and ironically enough, even though it might not show, I was feeling a lot of fear in the first part of my conversation with Arawana Hayashi. It is interesting to notice all the subtle ways that fear can hijack a situation. In my case it often shows up in that I only ask questions that I actually know (or think I know) the answer of. It is somewhat embarrassing, but I think I´m trying to protect myself, not wanting to enter a terrain that is unknown or uncertain. Going into such territory is, by the way, something I hope to engage more fully when I plan to launch the next wave of podcast interviews (late august 2014).
    http://youtu.be/6tIkoxwkw7A

  • James Arnfinsen

    What role can art play in relation to societal transformation? Here is a current project from Teheran, Iran (15.05.2015):

    In an unusual move by Tehran’s mayor, hundreds of copies of famous artworks — both of world masters and Iranian artists — have been plastered on some 1,500 billboards across the city, transforming the Iranian capital into a gigantic, open-air exhibition.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/14/tehran-billboards-art_n_7283482.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World

    Below is one of the art works on display; Munchs “Scream”. Follow the link above to see more!

  • James Arnfinsen

    What role can art play in relation to societal transformation? Here is a current project from Teheran, Iran (15.05.2015):

    In an unusual move by Tehran’s mayor, hundreds of copies of famous artworks — both of world masters and Iranian artists — have been plastered on some 1,500 billboards across the city, transforming the Iranian capital into a gigantic, open-air exhibition.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/14/tehran-billboards-art_n_7283482.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World

    Below is one of the art works on display; Munchs “Scream”. Follow the link above to see more!

  • James Arnfinsen

    Here is a recent interview with Arawana Hayashi conducted by Otto Scharmer. She explains the basics of Social Presencing Theater. Really inspiring: This is part 1 and part 2, 3 and 4 can be seen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwJuQ3M_s60

  • James Arnfinsen

    Recently the Presencing team released on YouTube all the videos about Social Presencing Theater that were used in their recent MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). This is a tremendous resource for the people interested in embodiment and awareness in the context of change work:
    The complete interview between Otto Scharmer and Arawana Hayashi:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r3vkn62qSU–

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zt7GgzDok6I

    About the process “4D mapping”:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0_lJYqtkxo

    About the foundational exercise “20 min dance”:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICylwz9RsSc

    About the process or principle of “stuck”:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVeU1fTuSZc

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVeU1fTuSZc

    Q&A with Arawana about Stuck