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Conscious Business Embodied – Part II

This post is by Mark Walsh of conscious business training providers Integration Training.

This is Part II of my blog post on embodiment and conscious and integral business.

I ended the previous post with a question: “So, how does all this relate to the body?”

Well, the disconnection from values in business is directly related to disconnection from ourselves – disembodiment. We live in a dissociated world where people are cut-off from themselves and lacking the body awareness necessary for effective health, emotional intelligence, leadership and relationships of all kinds. Disembodiment – living from the tie up – disconnects us from ourselves (including what is good for us and our ethics), others, and the planet.

The body is where emotions, connections to others and ethics happen. The body is the substrate of these “things”, which are not things but embodied experiences and parts of ourselves.

Values (and morality if we want to be old-fashioned) aren’t lofty theoretical concepts but full-bodied “yum!” or “yuck!” responses. Remember the last time your values where strongly expressed or compromised – what happened in your fundamental “operating system” (the body)? Even remembering can become a visceral act.

The body is not just a “brain taxi” and the reduction of the body to something mechanical is a sad loss indeed. When I talk about the body I’m not so interested in someone’s physical shape, size or attractiveness but how they live in and as bodies.

The body is the how of life and the how of business. Our stance is our stance towards life, how we move is how we move in business.

Working with stress management, leadership and team building in the corporate world I see time and time again that when people get in touch with the embodied reality of being fully human their behaviour changes. This is not always comfortable and it does lead to greater health and happiness, improved relationships and effectiveness. With embodiment comes a renewed interested self-care, authentic considerate relationships and ethical action that contributes to the world. These things are actually one and the same.

By being more conscious of our bodies – or of ourselves as embodied, to be more accurate – we make our business more conscious. The two cannot be separated and I believe that trying to be more conscious in business simply from a dry, cognitive, theoretical point of view will not succeed.

As one of my teachers likes or say, “Knowledge is only a rumour until it is
in the body”. Change must be visceral or it is no change at all.

Some Things to Consider

  • How often are you “in your body” at work? – What is the potential cost of this?
  • What are you practicing in your way of being? If your posture now was recorded and projected on the sky for the world to see what would it be saying?
  • How can you “change the climate” of your current embodiment?

Mark Walsh leads conscious business training providers Integration Training – based in Brighton, London and Birmingham UK. Specialising in working with emotions, the body and spirituality at work they help organisations get more done without going insane (time and stress management), coordinate action more effectively (team building and communication training) and help leaders build impact, influence and presence (leadership training). Clients include Unilever, The Sierra Leonian Army and the University of Sussex.

He is the most followed trainer on Twitter and Youtube and has the Google no.2 ranked management training blog. Offline, Mark dances, meditates and practices martial arts.

His ambition is to help make it OK to be a human being at work.


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Embodied Conscious Business

What is the relationship between the body and value-led business? Why will the next generation of business work, not just cognitively but “below the tie”? How can increased body-awareness and self-management transform business practice, ethics and effectiveness? This is a guest blog post on the relationship between embodiment and conscious business, written by Mark Walsh of business training providers Integration Training (see fuller profile below).

In describing the two-way relationship between these fresh fields it pays to start with some working definitions. Conscious business is the idea that making money is not incompatible with doing good – looking after “people and planet” as well as profit and having a “values-led” or “multiple-bottom-line” approach. One might add that enjoyment and even personal growth through business is a part of this broad and not easily defined field.

Embodiment is a concern with the body as not just a piece of meat that carries our head around but as an integral aspect of ourselves. The field concerns the living subjective experience of having a body and has applications in the business world to such areas as leadership, stress management and team development.

Embodiment includes a concern for basic physical health and goes way beyond this into areas such as impact and presence, communication, emotional intelligence (a sub-set of embodied intelligence), bodily intuition and state management such as centring. Embodiment is not about athleticism but on being present to and as the body, so requires mindfulness and is about making full use of the body’s inherent capacities which industrial culture and business has largely ignored.

I have observed that doing embodied practices with business leaders increases their “circle of concern” and develops their interest in values other than money. Also that those emerging as conscious capitalists tend to become interested in embodiment. My conclusion is that causation works both ways. This makes sense given what is known about adult development which indicates that the post-modern value-set emerging in business is feeling orientated and therefore embodied.

This cultural shift in response to several hundred years of disembodied “hyper-rational” Western culture first emerged strongly in counter-culture in the sixties and has now worked its way into business, particularly in sectors such as high-tech industries which are not held-back by stagnant traditions. See, for example, the humanistic feel, and emphasis on well-being and personal sustainability in many Silicon Valley companies.

The move towards both (re)embodiment and conscious business may start with a vague sense that health is important and a company gym or similar may be needed so that employees are productive and don’t die of heart attacks. Emotions (note that the word “feeling” points to their physical nature – emotions are embodied) reemerge as aids to productive leadership and communication.

Both subjects of this post owe a debt of thanks to Daniel Goleman for legitimising being a human being at work again. EI and similar notions have provided a bridge to allowing first more effective and satisfying leadership and well-being, and then to the full embodied and spiritual aspects of being a person from nine-to-five. We are embodied, emotional values-led creatures and it pays to take account of that after all!

So ethics and the more developed perspective of conscious business have a physical foundation. Morality is as much bodily as it is rational – note that people tend to say “this FEELS” wrong, for example. And empathy is again largely bodily (feeling for others). Other capacities that remerge with embodiment are intuition (“gut” feeling) and creativity (all thinking, in fact, has been shown by embodied cognition research to be a full-body experience), giving embodied conscious businesses a competitive edge.

As the business paradigm shifts from organisation and body as machine, to organisation as living system, and body as core aspect of self, a new world of possibility emerges. What was once tolerable when one was disassociated from one’s natural empathic bodily response to suffering, ugliness and stupidity, becomes something in dire need of change.

Going beyond physical, emotional and ethical numbness business can be done in an entirely better way – in both senses of the word. A new generation are starting social enterprises and others are transforming big business from the inside. When we feel our bodies, a business that does not support us, others and our deepest values becomes an unattractive choice; and business that does will get the best and brightest. The soul of business is coming back embodied; conscious business is not just a theory: it is flesh and blood.

Mark Walsh leads business training providers Integration Training – based in Brighton, London and Birmingham UK. Specialising in working with emotions, the body and spirituality at work they help organisations get more done without going insane (time and stress management), coordinate action more effectively (team building and communication training) and help leaders build impact, influence and presence (leadership training). Clients include Virgin Atlantic, The Sierra Leonian Army and the University of Sussex. In his spare time Mark dances, meditates, practices aikido and enjoys being exploited by his niece and a mad cat. His life ambition is to make it normal to be a human being at work.