The embodied leader
Mind is story. Body is reality.
I’m going to ask you to read this week’s note a little differently. Not with your intellect, but with your senses. Not as a concept, but as an experience. Ready? Let’s go.
Consider your mind. See if you can look into it right now, see what it’s up to: Is it ruminating on some past regret or worrying about a future outcome? Is it running through your to-do list? Rehearsing a conversation? What story is it playing? The not good enough story, perhaps, or not enough time. Better than or less than. Be correct. Maintain control. Make people happy. It will always be like this. We have so many stories.
Now breathe. Let the story keep playing (as if you could stop it) but direct your attention away from the busy mind and drop it into the body. Breathe again. Feel the ground beneath your feet. The lift and swell of an inhale. Let your exhale be long and slow. Look for tension in your belly, your shoulders, your jaw. Release it if you can.
Notice that there are no stories here, only sensations. A story about the body may arise—a judgment, a memory or a prayer—but that too is just a story. Bring yourself back to the sensations. A tickle, a tingle, an ache, a chill. Is there a sense of energy, or the lack thereof? What do these signals reveal? I am alive. I am safe. I am exhausted. What needs might they point to? Rest. Reflection. A different perspective. A new approach.
Coming out of this exercise, let’s reflect: How did dropping out of the mind and into the body shift our experience? What have we learned about the value of each? Which has earned our trust?
Here’s how I see it.
The mind exists to make sense of the world and our place in it. It tries its best to get it right, and sometimes goes terribly wrong. It turns out that the mind, in all its brilliance and bias and brutality, is only a story.
The body is real. It exists in space and time. It offers us refuge from the endless story, evidence of our own basic aliveness and insight into the nature of reality, where we can see what’s happening and what’s needed.
We are most effective—and least destructive—when we can see the mind’s story but stay grounded in our body, aware of our senses and engaged with the world as it is. This is embodied leadership, and it is more powerful than any story.
Look at the week ahead: What is one important moment for you to show up, fully embodied and disentangled from story? You might be making an important decision this week, giving a big presentation or having a sensitive conversation. Choose a simple practice that can help you in these moments, such as feeling your feet on the floor, taking a mindful sip of water or practicing a five-minute breath meditation. Whatever strategy you choose, practice coming back to the body early and often so this new habit will be available to you in the moments that matter most.