Lessons From Wisdom 2.0 On Compassion, Connection And Embodiment
Cover Photo by Aaron Burden.
By Rachel Nichols
“How can we harness the superpowers of technology and mindfulness to bring more wisdom and compassion into our digital world?” Trudy Goodman, asked a room full of seekers on the opening night of Wisdom 2.0, a two and a half day conference in San Francisco that was created to explore the intersection of connection and technology. Trudy gave a powerful talk to kick off the conference, alongside husband, best-selling author, Buddhist practitioner and teacher Jack Kornfield, on kindness and compassion in the digital age.
Wisdom 2.0, which took place in late February, provided a powerful platform for the 3,000 attendees from 30 different countries to connect with more than 75 speakers, authors, thought leaders and culture shifters across five stages to explore how we can live with greater presence, purpose and wisdom in the digital age.
I loved hearing from disrupters like Tarana Burke, founder of the #metoo movement, who brought us all to tears as she told the story about how her campaign exploded overnight on the internet last October. I also loved connecting with so many inspiring people and listening to their stories—hearing how different people ended up at Wisdom 2.0, what they were hoping to take away and what struck them about the weekend. Many people were there to connect with causes close to their hearts, including how to shift both our leadership and educational systems on a grand scale. And while there were so many amazing insights to digest, the lessons on compassion, connection and embodiment resonated with me the most.
The discussions about cultivating compassion and connection in our digital world were really insightful and inspiring; but what feels even more important, is learning how to actually take these lessons beyond the conference and live them out in our daily lives. This is where embodiment comes into play. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said to us: “You have to live it! And be it, whatever the ‘it’ is!”
The Importance of Embodied Leadership
Embodiment seemed to be an overarching theme at the conference. Soren Gordhamer, founder of Wisdom 2.0, even suggested that embodiment is now what mindfulness was 10 years ago. Similarly, at a Women's Leadership panel, moderated by mindfulness teacher Michelle Gale, it was suggested that we have three centers of intelligence that need to be honored: IQ, EQ and BQ. While IQ, EQ are pretty well-known, with emotional intelligence becoming more of a buzzword these days, it was the first time I had heard anyone use the term “BQ.” Body Intelligence, or the wisdom of the body, is “so core to leadership and also to women,” said Michelle. Each of the women on the panel—Diana Chapman, Co-Founder of Conscious Leadership Group; Lynn Johnson, Co-founder/CEO of Spotlight: Girls; and Lori Schwanbeck, Executive Coach and Psychotherapist—spoke to how the wisdom of the body applies to the work they are doing in the world.
“Embodiment is such a vital part of our experience of being alive. There's such a rich source of information that comes through the body,” Lori said, noting that a lot of us, especially women, are cut off from that felt sense of the body. “[So it’s important] to reinhabit that felt sense by turning inward to get the information that comes through the body—the implicit processing system in the brain that sends signals all through our nervous system. To listen to that is the beginning of wisdom,” she said. “The turning inward and sensing is really critical if we're going to empower our leaders and our women to rise up, to be powerful and impactful in the world.”
Diana of Conscious Leadership Group shared that one of the things she loves to promote in her business is to “‘Be smart and feel your feelings.’ It's so intelligent, but it requires most of us to be uncomfortable, especially in leadership positions,” she said.
In the same conversation, Lynn of Spotlight: Girls—a certified B Corp that inspires, educates and activates girls and women to take center stage—touched on the effects of intergenerational trauma, which is the theory that unresolved trauma and its challenges can be passed down to future generations. Lynn said that we must recognize the reality of a woman’s body, which holds centuries and centuries of violence and repression. “Our bodies—the generations of violence that has gone on to our bodies—has to be acknowledged and healed collectively to go on to be able to take a leadership position.”
Reconnecting With The Wisdom of the Body
So how do we effectively feel and heal these parts so that we can lead from a solid place? Getting in touch with our body, its patterns and intelligence through presence, awareness and practice, which can be accessed through practices like meditation, yoga or martial arts is a great start. There are also organizations like Oakland-based Strozzi Institute, which provides individual and corporate Embodied Leadership trainings that help people access the wisdom of the body through somatic and holistic practices, neuroscience, action-oriented communication and mindfulness. Being a somatics geek these days, I was really excited to learn more about what Embodied Leadership entails. Strozzi Institute led several workshops in the Embodiment Lounge all weekend at Wisdom 2.0, so I attended one of those as well as a powerful talk given by Richard Strozzi-Heckler, founder of Strozzi Institute, on the main stage.
In his address, Richard offered us some of the questions he often asks himself: “How is it that it is so easy for us to poison our waters and pollute our air? One of the reasons is that we are out of touch with our bodies. How is it that there's a growing distance between those that have and those that don't have? I’d submit that one of the reasons is that we are out of touch with our bodies. How is it that so much conflict so easily now precipitates into violence? And again, I would offer that one of the reasons is because we are out of touch with our bodies,” Richard said. And what he is referring to when he says body is our capacity to feel.
According to Richard, our educational systems and the culture have placed a huge amount of emphasis on our capacity to think rationally and logically, and to have correct analysis. This is a good thing in that it’s given us medicine, highways, technologies and more. “But what we've sacrificed is the capacity to feel and sense,” which, in many ways, has been pruned out of us, he said.
Tapping Into 3 Billion Years Of Wisdom
So how do we reconnect to our bodies? How do we reconnect to feeling and sensing, to our felt sense? Richard said there is an animating force—what other cultures refer to as chi or prana, for example—that contains 3 billion years of wisdom and intelligence that we can tap into that can show us that “interdependence isn’t simply a philosophical concept but it is a lived experience.” So Richard suggested that the next time we are making a plan, to take a moment to try to enter into that energy, that force, by feeling and sensing our bodies and ask yourself: “What is it that this energy is saying… what is the right track, what is the right way to move?”
What does “the right way to move” mean? And how do we tap into that force? By tapping into the history that lives in our bodies we can begin to discover the way we take action and learn more about our behaviors, moods and emotions, how we make and break contact with others. The body and self are intimately linked together, Richard said, and the way we shape ourselves will produce a certain action. By tuning in, we can gain awareness about our individual shapes and begin to change them, which gives us more access to the deeper voice that lives inside of us—our core energy and wisdom. And when we begin to shift our shape, we can start to access the space between who we are now and who we are historically, both on a personal and collective level.
Practice Makes Progress
So what can we do to cultivate personal and collective transformation in our society? It’s all about practice. “In this notion of body transformation, and leadership transformation, what’s important is we have personal and collective practices that move us toward the new vision that we have for ourselves and our society,” Richard said. “That requires that we look at how the practices that we are doing now—how the practices we are doing in this moment—are going to take us there. One of the things that body and somatics teaches us is how to live in our discomfort and move through it.”
Richard then pointed to a proverb he had heard through his practice of Japanese martial art Aikido: “‘Knowledge is only a rumor until it's in the muscle.’ So how do we get these insights, from these two days, these awarenesses and put it into our muscle, so we can take effective action? So we don't just leave with great insight and great awareness.” While the insight and awareness is a great place to start, Richard said there are powerful steps we can practice that will lead to effective action through our compassion and through tapping into this deep 3 billion years of information. To learn more about these practices, check out Strozzi Institute’s Embodied Leadership Trainings at strozziinstitute.com.
Editor's Note: Stay tuned for a more in-depth article on what it's like to go through Strozzi's Embodied Leadership Training later this spring.
Community: We Need Each Other
When it comes to making progress in living with greater presence, purpose and wisdom in the digital age, Trudy Goodman and Jack Kornfield talked about the importance of belonging to a community that speaks the same language—the language of compassion. “We have the capacity to learn a language but we all have to be in a community that speaks that language to learn it and for it to survive,” Trudy said. “So that’s why we are here—to learn to language of compassion and to make it our default setting—it needs to be embedded in our families, our schools, in our values, in our whole society because it’s lonely otherwise,” Trudy said. “We really need each other.”
When we see the whole picture, we see our interconnectedness, Trudy said. “It leads to the opening of the heart to compassion. Each of us carry some piece of the truth through our own perspective, but we really need each other to see the whole picture. Through mindfulness, which turns out to be a real superpower, we can see with more clarity and compassion.”
We Are All Connected
At the end of the conference, Wisdom 2.0 founder Soren Gordhamer asked us to share with those around us what was percolating for each of us. Although I absolutely loved hearing insights from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byron Katie, Dr. Dan Siegel, Sharon Salzberg and Nadine Burke Harris, to name a few, the first thing that came to mind for me were the connections I made. I could go on and on about the fascinating people I met who lit up so bright as they talked about the reasons they were there, what kind of difference they hoped to make in the world and what issues were important to them. There was Jeffrey the acupuncturist who has a new project focused on helping others manage stress more intelligently. There was Valerie, the Women’s Empowerment and Leadership coach who founded Women’s Anger Release events that involves getting together with groups of women to smash fine china (which I am excited to write more about later!), and Alex who shared a hilarious story with me about his first time using Frankincense essential oil and secretly saging his house. These are my people.
In the end, the really cool thing is that there were 3,000 people who had 3,000 different experiences. There were so many possibilities to experience across the five stages, interactive art exhibits, the yoga room, the quiet room and the village of vendors, that each and every one of us were gifted a unique experience based on what our own hearts called us toward.
What Soren said to me when I interviewed him for SF Yoga Mag before the conference happened made so much more sense by the end of the weekend. He told me there is a power in human connection, in all of us coming together and tuning in together in the same room. There are all these benefits being connected through the screen, but when we are all together, what we create from that space is often so much more powerful.
I couldn’t agree more. The connections, whether it was the people I met sitting next to me in a session, at the networking mixers, or connecting with the collective energy of everyone in the room during moving talks, were what made Wisdom 2.0 for me. To connect with Wisdom 2.0 and learn more about other events they organize throughout the year, visit wisdom2summit.com.