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How my body showed me a way out of a stuck-situation using a simple, but powerful embodiment exercise
Social Presencing Theater (SPT) is an embodiment and social art practice, developed under the leadership of Arawana Hayashi, for understanding current reality and exploring emerging future possibilities. SPT can be practised at the individual, group, organization, and larger social systems level. It is not “theatre” in the conventional sense, but uses simple body postures and movements to dissolve limiting concepts, to communicate directly, to access intuition, and to make visible both current reality, and the deeper – often invisible – leverage points for creating profound change. Social Presencing Theater is connected closely to Theory U, the widely known model for transformative change. The Presencing Institute at the MIT university in Boston has used SPT effectively for over ten years in business, government, and civil society settings, in places including Brazil, Indonesia, China, Europe and the United States.
The usual pattern to deal with stuck situations in my life has for the longest time been to think them through, discuss them with family or friends, and then reflect on them. It works, by its (my?!) own logic, as I would often get an idea of how to overcome the stuck and what to do next.
Some stucks though, return.
One of my returning (life) stucks could be called, “Need for harmony and conformity.” This has presented itself to me in a variety of ways and forms such as: difficulty in dealing with conflict situations or aggression for that matter, clearly expressing my opinion in discussions, voicing irritation or proposing something unusual or unconventional. Some I have managed to turn around, some still return.
In the last years I have felt more than once, stuck, when it was about having the courage to integrate activities in my professional work that are still considered in some contexts, weird or even “esoteric.” Meditation, embodiment exercises, council for example, and although I had good reasons why they would be effective and I knew I just needed to do it in an authentic and considerate way more than once my body felt stuck and I could not just do it.
Through Social Presencing Theater (SPT) I got to know the embodiment practice “Stuck”. SPT starts from the conviction that there is wisdom in the body that can be helpful in stuck situations, since every stuck has a physical manifestation.
This exercise proposes to embody the stuck situation, or in other words, let your body find the shape of it. As one can easily imagine, these body shapes or sculptures are often unpleasant postures; for at the end of the day, it is a “stuck!”
Embracing this embodied stuck with full presence and slowness, one allows the body to begin movement toward a posture that is more sustainable, perhaps more pleasant than the initial pose. This second posture or shape is not “the solution” but in the movement therein, lies potential wisdom. And again, one should not look too quickly to make cognitive meaning of this experience; it works also without thinking on a somatic level.
So, how did it help me with my stuck? The last time I embodied my previously stuck situation something extraordinary happened. The initial shape was one slightly bent in the back facing more towards the floor with one hand reaching out and one hand in front of the face. My cognitive intelligence would tell me to straighten up my body, stand firmly and have a clear view forward. My body though, started to lean even more forward, kneel down and then slowly bring my hands to touch my heart area.
My witnessing colleagues noticed a relaxed posture and joyful face; and I truly sensed it. I felt soft and the words came to me; “I need to lean into my vulnerability”.
It really felt like a shift in my consciousness, and in the little time since then I can feel already that I am more at ease with proposing activities that I feel strongly about, even if they might be unusual or uncomfortable.
What is a stuck situation in your life that returns?
How do you usually deal with it?
Have you ever tried to give it a shape with your body?
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