Embodied leadership: speak your truth… listen deeply
Reviewed By: Open Floor Blog Editor
This summer I taught two Open Floor sessions at the National Network Assembly, a conference that brought together progressive, grassroots political activists from around the U.S. in advance of the 2020 elections to expand their collaboration and leadership skills, as well as pause for self-care and celebration.
Open Floor Blog Editor
Author: Deb Marois
Language availability: English
This summer I taught two Open Floor sessions at the National Network Assembly, a conference that brought together progressive, grassroots political activists from around the U.S. in advance of the 2020 elections to expand their collaboration and leadership skills, as well as pause for self-care and celebration. Youth from the Futures Coalition also attended, to focus on planning for September’s Global Climate strike.
Held at a remote camp with no cell reception or wi-fi, the convening offered a relaxed setting to introduce activist leaders to conscious dance – a dream come true for long-time Bay Area dancer and conference Steering Committee member Linda Herman. The concept involved providing participants with an embodied experience of collaboration, after they took part in a presentation on the subject offered by Linda and her colleague from SoCA Blue.
My first session focused on self-care and introduced the Core Movement Resource of Activate & Settle. To be effective leaders, we need to be able to take space to process, recharge and listen inward. In the midst of a busy and intense conference, Open Floor offered some precious moments of tuning in, focusing on breath, body and “what’s moving through us.” We experimented with activating different body parts – feet, hands, elbows – and using them to communicate our experience. How are you feeling about this conference so far? How are you feeling about this administration? Noticing the different ways in which we are activated and physical or emotional responses that come with that. Partnering to share our moves and to witness different types of activation. What is it like to dance with someone who’s activated when I’m not and vice versa? How do we handle all the feelings that arise and then settle ourselves after?
I served as the scribe for the “Rebooting Democracy” session just before holding the second Open Floor session. Presenters had discussed the five essential practices of collaboration: Listening, Recollection (remembering shared purpose), Stewardship (caring for the group), Curiosity, and Acceptance (letting go of personal preference). Taking part in the session really helped me bring the concepts onto the dance floor. Dancing with partners, then small groups and then the whole – with each person offering their unique moves and taking turns leading and following. Kesha’s song Rich, White, Straight Men brought some fun and along with the last song, Ben Lee’s We’re All In This Together helped remind us of our shared purpose.
A few of the participants’ comments that really stuck with me:
· I felt sadness come up that I didn’t know was there.
· I was uncomfortable at first but then I gained more confidence (from a youth leader).
· We need more of this!
For me, this conference provided a rich opportunity to fuse my community development consulting work with Open Floor. I am particularly grateful to my Open Floor colleague Jenny Macke for her mentoring which was invaluable in helping me prepare. This was my own taste of collaborative leadership! Given our current political context, I left feeling more hopeful than I have in several years.