In this episode, Bridgette and Irvine explore how important it is to connect with our bodies and integrate its wisdom into our leadership actions.
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Irvine Nugent [00:00:03]:
Well, welcome everyone to the Resilient Leadership podcast where everything we talk about is aimed at helping you lead with a greater sense of calm, clarity, and conviction even in anxious times. My name is Irvine. And today, as always, I am joined by my cohost and friend and collaborator, Bridget. Bridget, how are you doing today?
Bridgette Theurer [00:00:25]:
Well, Irvine, I am doing wonderfully. Thank you for asking. As we record this, it’s a beautiful what do we call the 2nd Indian summer day?
Irvine Nugent [00:00:33]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:00:34]:
And, you know, fall is is coming, but today has been warm and sunny skies, quite beautiful. And I’m really glad That we are devoting an entire episode to this notion of embodied leadership. But why don’t you tell our listeners just a little bit more about this topic.
Irvine Nugent [00:00:53]:
Yeah. So today’s topic is called full bodied leadership. And, really, it’s about embodiment. This that what you just said, Bridgette. And, you know, if you’re listening to our podcast, you will know that we have mentioned here and there how important it is to be aware of what’s happening in our body. We’ve even offered you some practices and some exercises to help you to do that. But today, I really want to take the time and what we’d like to explore with you is this really how important and how integral it is to really see leadership embodied in the fact that we are walking bodies as well and how much wisdom there is within our bodies. And I think before we do that.
Irvine Nugent [00:01:33]:
I think it is important for us to recognize that we come from this tradition where the rational has been held above everything else. And really veering away from that is getting ourselves in trouble. It can’t be trusted. It’s unreliable. It’s overly emotional. Even had this last week. I had I think I was talking to you before the podcast at a keynote with a client. And, you know, one of the concerns was about, oh, you know, when you get into emotions or something, some people are just not gonna like that because, you know, why does everything have to be so emotional? And, you know, think about that, it’s it’s really a lack of understanding just as how we’re created as human beings.
Irvine Nugent [00:02:11]:
So what I think we’d like to focus in this episode really is to help us understand that, actually, instead of being woo woo or being unreliable, what science is actually showing us, as it so often does, is that to be an effective leader, it’s this marriage of our mind and our body and really to trust the wisdom of what the body is telling us. Now, Brigid, you’ve been a coach for quite a few years, and you’ve seen a lot of trends and coaching and leadership, and you work with so many clients. So I’m just curious. What have you seen in the world are the changes when it comes to that relationship between body and leadership.
Bridgette Theurer [00:02:54]:
Oh, I have seen a vast Change. I mean, you know, I’ve been coaching for 25 plus years and, when in the early days, if you mentioned the body, people would go, what? I don’t have a body, you know, and there’s this whole notion of sort of living from the neck up. Right? You didn’t talk about your body.
Irvine Nugent [00:03:13]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:03:14]:
And then things start to change a little bit. But even after I’ve been coaching for a good decade or so, I remember A colleague of mine and I were at a high-tech start up company, and she went to teach them the simple practice of centering. And I saw a whole bunch of eyes roll and giggling and stuff like that. People are like, this to your you said woo woo? They were like, Ladies, this is woo woo. Now fast forward to today, and many people have meditation practices. They have yoga practices. They know about the breath. If I introduce centering, it’s oftentimes the practice that sticks with people the most.
Bridgette Theurer [00:03:54]:
So we’ve come a long way, and we have a ways to go, in my opinion. So I’m curious what you think, Irvine.
Irvine Nugent [00:04:00]:
I I agree with that as well. I think as well, you know, where we’re at today, I don’t know about you, but but, you know, from my clients, I meet some clients and especially where we have been in these last few years who are literally at their wits end, and they have tried all the traditional things, and it’s just not working. They’re they’re at a level of exhaustion. And I think that has you know, as bad as that is, it also leads to a new openness. I need to try something different. This isn’t working. And so I I’m finding a hunger for what we might call nontraditional kind of approaches or or just bringing, you know, an openness to even thinking about the wisdom of the body and and knowing that the tired old responses just don’t work anymore.
Bridgette Theurer [00:04:46]:
Yeah. And, you know, the fact of the matter is we are whole beings. I mean, we have we have our thinking self and we have our physical self, And the 2 are not cut off from one another. So, you can ignore the body, but you’ll do so at your own peril Simply because of what the neuroscience tells us about how human beings function. I mean, come on. We know anecdotally from our own life experience That we’re we read people’s bodies all the time. Absolutely. Right? Yep.
Bridgette Theurer [00:05:15]:
So why don’t we start there? Irvine, I think that’s a great place to begin our conversation. So What does the neuroscience tell us about embodied leadership or just the body and the mind connection?
Irvine Nugent [00:05:27]:
Yeah. So I think, you know, this is such a rich area at the moment, and it really is a lot of some excellent cutting edge research. And I think I just kinda wanna highlight maybe 1 or 2 things which are really confirming what, instinctually, I think we always knew. And so first of all, you know, when we think about intelligence, so often and we have we think of our front frontal cortex in the home of intelligence and rational thought, etcetera. But I think what neuroscience is telling us that that’s one intelligence, and it’s an important intelligence for leadership. But I think also that what we’re also learning is that the body also has other intelligences which have wisdom and can help us inform. So, you know, 2 areas that are really interesting. 1, is an area called neurocardiology, which is this connection between the heart and the mind.
Bridgette Theurer [00:06:21]:
Irvine Nugent [00:06:21]:
And so, you know, when you think about it, the brain you know, so often we think about the brain. We think of the brain up here in the middle of our skulls. This is where the brain is. Well, the brain extends down our spinal cord, And so the brain is interconnected. We forget about that at times, how interconnected the brain is with the rest of the body. And through the nervous system, you know, the brain reaches the outer parts of our body. And I think what neurocardiology is suggesting is that, you know, the heart itself can process information, helps us to learn, to remember, to make functioning decisions independent of the brain as well, which is just so, you know, when you think about it, you know, we have these sayings, you know, bring it to the heart or my heart is speaking. You know what? And so these are things we have said, but science now is saying, oh, you know what? That’s actually very true.
Irvine Nugent [00:07:10]:
And then the other area, which is the, I suppose, the newest area that the research is coming out is what’s called neurogastroenterology. That’s a mouthful. That the spelling the spelling bee. What’s talking about there is another brain in the gut. And this as well is connected to an enteric nervous system, and this functions independently from the brain as well. And that’s why, you know, we can digest foods without a second thought. It’s why, actually, after a person that’s declared brain dead still has the ability to process nutrients, etcetera. So, you know, we we we often think then about, you know, I have a gut feeling.
Irvine Nugent [00:07:51]:
You know, there’s something there. I have intuition, etcetera, you know. And and some people will say, well, there’s nothing to that. That’s but there actually is something to that.
Bridgette Theurer [00:07:59]:
Irvine Nugent [00:08:00]:
There is this this the idea of that. So so I think it’s important for us to to realize that the brain extends throughout the body, but also there are other parts in the body as well, which are part of this process, especially when it comes to making decisions.
Bridgette Theurer [00:08:14]:
Mhmm. So You know, while you’re talking, I recalled something that somebody shared with me a few years ago, and I I just remembered it as you were talking, Which is that her husband was having a a a transplant. Now his was a kidney transplant. But, you know, when you go through that process, you meet a lot of different people. Right?
Irvine Nugent [00:08:34]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:08:34]:
And they had met somebody who was having a heart transplant. And that person shared with them This this story that not not them, but someone they knew who had had a heart transplant, after they got a new heart, They actually started having a few different memories of experiences felt experiences that they actually hadn’t had.
Irvine Nugent [00:09:00]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:09:00]:
And it was around something like music.
Irvine Nugent [00:09:02]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:09:03]:
And the recipient I mean, not the recipient, but the giver Had been a musician. Now I’m just telling this as a story that I heard that I thought was fascinating and I at the time, I thought, well, how could that be? You know? Yeah. But but to your point, perhaps the heart retains
Irvine Nugent [00:09:20]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:09:21]:
Its own form of memory in a different way. Yep. Right? Not in language
Irvine Nugent [00:09:25]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:09:26]:
But in other ways. Yeah. So, of course, all of this has implications for leadership and how we make decisions. You know, we really do, I think grow up kind of being given the message to mistrust our feelings.
Irvine Nugent [00:09:38]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:09:39]:
You know, because they’re not rational. Let’s be more analytical. Let’s set our feelings aside and make a good decision. But as you just so nicely explained, it doesn’t work like that in the body. Right? I mean, feelings are much more than just sort of these transitory things. We feelings are actually part of the decision making process. And we want to include them because they often are, They arise out of life experiences that we’ve had where we’ve detected patterns. And those patterns are really in feelings that we have.
Bridgette Theurer [00:10:15]:
That gut instinct is the recognition of a pattern at an emotional level. Right? So we wanna bring the 2 together. We don’t wanna divorce parts of ourselves. We want to integrate ourselves. Yeah. And when we do so, we make better decisions and we show up, I think, more powerfully. Right? It’s about using all of the wisdom available to us From our whole selves.
Irvine Nugent [00:10:39]:
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
Bridgette Theurer [00:10:41]:
Mhmm. So you have any other thoughts to add to that, Evelyn?
Irvine Nugent [00:10:44]:
One other thing as well that I think that research shows it used to be, you know, especially is something happens to it happens to us. We have a reaction, and then the outward sign is we we go into an emotion, etcetera. But I think what’s interesting as well as some of the research as well about how our actual posture, our the way we configure muscles in our face, activate feelings, etcetera. So I think that’s really important to show that the power of the body as well, the way we we show up in our body, the way the posture we form, how we configure emotions in our face or or, sorry, muscles in our face can lead to new emotions and and generate emotion, I think that’s really, really important because it just shows you there’s this interplay. It’s not just the body’s not the last thing. The body can initiate. And so how we configure a body, how our body is impostured to be aware, all of that is is influencing the way we show up and is influencing decisions and is influencing how other people are seeing us. So it really is this this beautiful holistic approach, which I really think that we we have to be very aware of.
Bridgette Theurer [00:11:52]:
Yeah. You know, when we are, let’s say, centered. Right? And that is a state of being that involves postural shifts like you just mentioned, and we’re gonna talk about that a little bit more detail. How do we shift our posture Yeah. To communicate from a more centered place.
Irvine Nugent [00:12:09]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:12:10]:
And the thing is is as we embody a more centered state, It does change everything. You know? It changes how we see and think. We can consider more possibilities. We we’re more open. We’re less likely to be triggered, and it creates changes in the way that other people see us. So when I get a coaching when I have a coaching call with somebody, And I do most of my coaching by phone. Sometimes, you know, video and in person, but mostly by phone. And as I’m listening to their voice from the moment they say hello, The first few sentences, I can tell if they’re in a centered or uncentered place.
Bridgette Theurer [00:12:46]:
Mhmm. And if I hear that they sound really centered and grounded, I tell them. So, wow, I gotta can I share an observation with you? You sound incredibly centered and grounded. And let me tell you what I’m noticing. Because it draws me in, and I know that if they are leading from a centered place, then there’s a reason for that. Right? And that is going to have implications for how other people are seeing them and how they’re feeling about their day.
Irvine Nugent [00:13:15]:
Right? Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, let’s just, kind of consider that as well. You know, very often when we think about, you know, our bodies and how we we talk about our bodies. You know, and I think I think our bodies are part of the response of any situation. I don’t know, Bridget, if this happens to you, you know, I do it. And then sometimes with clients as well, I’ll say, you know, you know, how are you feeling? And and what they’ll say is, well, I think I’m anxious today or I think, you know, and any time you use the words, I think you’re in the brain. And can I think that’s even telling us, you know, you know, when when when someone says, you know, I’m anxious? Well, how do you know I’m anxious? Yes.
Irvine Nugent [00:13:57]:
I just feel it from my shoulders. You know, my shoulders are are just tense, and there’s the neck and the jaw and the tension and my voice. There’s a difference in my voice, or I’m feeling fear. And and how do you know that? Oh, I I just kind of feel cold and and enclosed, etcetera. And I I just feel I wanna get out of here. I’m distant. Or I’m upset. Well, how do you know that? Oh, I there’s there’s this heat, and and I I just I’m moving inwards, and and I’ve just got great tension.
Irvine Nugent [00:14:23]:
You know, all of these are are indications, you know, of how our body is informing us. And very often, these physiological aspects of a response are there even before we’ve begun to think about it. And so often, we don’t integrate that wisdom, that knowledge. When you think about it, you know, how much you know, how improved would a a decision be? How much better would a response be if I was able to access that wisdom and then integrate that into a response. Mhmm. And I think, you know, considering the business environment we’re in which we’ve talked about before, there are so many opportunities day in, day out to be off center. There are things just literally knocking us off center. From the moment we the moment we wake up in the morning till we get home at night and go to bed again, you know, and so, therefore, I think it’s important for us just to be aware.
Irvine Nugent [00:15:16]:
First of all, what does center look like? What does that feel like? And then that can really we can begin to, appreciate what it’s like to be off center.
Bridgette Theurer [00:15:26]:
Yeah. Indeed. Because, you know, we can say to ourselves, you know what? I’m just not going to get triggered by that person today.
Irvine Nugent [00:15:33]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:15:34]:
Right? But then we show up in a meeting, And if we’re not paying attention to our body and how we entered into that meeting in the 1st place, the person may say or do something, and before we know it, we’re triggered. You can’t just have an intellectual commitment to be a center leader.
Irvine Nugent [00:15:50]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:15:50]:
It has to be an embodied one. Right? Yeah. So maybe what I think would be helpful is to take a deeper look at what does centering look like and feel like in the body. Absolutely. We shared, I think, many podcast episodes ago, a very short centering practice. It was In year 1.
Irvine Nugent [00:16:09]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:16:09]:
But let’s take a deeper look. And in particular, I think it it would be really helpful to Sort of break this down into 3 facets of ourselves. Right? Yep. Yep. Our length, width, and our depth. And so because we’re talking about the body now. We’re not intellectualizing centering. We’re talking about getting, centered in our body.
Bridgette Theurer [00:16:29]:
So length. Why do we need to pay attention to this dimension of ourselves? Well, length is what telegraphs to us and to the people around us that we have dignity and respect. For whom? Ourselves and for other people. And so when we embody our length, We feel legitimate. We feel dignified, and others feel like we’re treating them like that.
Irvine Nugent [00:16:56]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:16:57]:
So here’s a simple practice For embodying your length. Right? So you bring your attention to the center of your body, we’ll work from there to like your belly. And first, Bring your attention from your belly all the way through your legs down to your feet and feel the length there. Right? And feel your feet into the floor. So that’s grounding us and and and getting in touch with the length from the center down. But now pay attention From the belly to the tip of your head and find a nice tall upright posture. Pay attention to your spine. And have it a tall spine and feel like a string is pulling up from the top of your head all the way up into the sky.
Bridgette Theurer [00:17:41]:
Mhmm. And so now we have a long tall spine, but we’re also grounded. And if you think about the Streams of this, you know, you can get too tall and disconnect from the ground and you might sound to look arrogant, or You can sort of be so into the ground with a collapsed spine that you don’t feel worthy.
Irvine Nugent [00:18:03]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:18:04]:
Right? And so the body and the length of our Fine. Is the 1st place to begin really embodying a centered presence. But that’s just length, so there’s also width and depth. So what about width?
Irvine Nugent [00:18:17]:
Yes, with it’s interesting. With this all about how far we extend and the importance about with there’s an interrelationship here with our feeling of connectedness, but as well as our boundaries, you know, where do we end and the other starts. And this is a balance. This is all and we’ve talked about this before. You know, we’ve talked about that if we’re too connected with others, we can become very enmeshed. Or if we have too solid a boundary, others can’t come in and we’re shutting them out. And so with is about finding this right balance of being connected as well as knowing where the right boundaries are. So a way off of doing this for a quick practice would be, you know, once again, you know, standing and then working, in her abdomen, and then just kind of feel the width of your body filling out.
Irvine Nugent [00:19:11]:
You know, what does it feel like? Just think of the sensations. You know, go from 1 shoulder to the other shoulder and the outside of the shoulders feel, you know, the extent of your width or from hip to hip or feel the outside of both our arms and our legs. And just just spend a few moments just to feel what that sensation is like and just realize that this is the place where we reach out to others. We can reach out to others or it’s also the beginning of the boundaries that we have. And just, you know, take a few breaths and just to see, you know, am I off balance?
Bridgette Theurer [00:19:48]:
Irvine Nugent [00:19:50]:
And do I need to create a stronger boundary, or do I need to be more connected or less connected? What’s going on? And just feel what that’s like in the body.
Bridgette Theurer [00:20:00]:
You know, it’s so interesting this notion of boundaries. I mean, our body is a physical boundary. Our skin is a boundary. Yeah. But we often don’t have that felt sense of where do I end and another begins.
Irvine Nugent [00:20:15]:
Yeah. Isn’t that true? Yeah. Yeah. So true. And so often we try and intellectualize that. You know? Let me think about that. You know? And but to really feel that is another thing.
Bridgette Theurer [00:20:25]:
That’s the thing. It’s it’s such a different thing to go from intellectually comprehending something To moving it deep into your muscle memory.
Irvine Nugent [00:20:36]:
Yeah. So we have done length and, we have done width, and that leaves one other dimension, which is depth. Would you like about depth?
Bridgette Theurer [00:20:46]:
Yeah. Well, we are three-dimensional beings after all. Right? Totally. So we have length, we have width, and we have depth. We have a front and a back. And the idea here is that your back is your strength from your history, Your past experiences, your expertise
Irvine Nugent [00:21:04]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:21:04]:
at your back, and your front is your vision and everything that you are doing that is in a State of becoming. I think because, you know, our eyes face forward and our organs are mostly Towards the front of our bodies, we’re more in touch sometimes with the front than the back. Yeah. And yet think about that at your back.
Irvine Nugent [00:21:24]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:21:25]:
Is this extraordinary strength of life experience and expertise, and are we in touch with it in a felt sense? Again, not intellectually, but, like, in a real sensation in our body. Now if we’re too much stuck at our back, because, again, this is a balance. We don’t wanna be leaning too far back, and we don’t wanna be leaning too far forward. So if we’re stuck at our back, then we kinda get stuck in our history and our Experience and we have trouble moving forward. That’s not good. Right? And then on the other hand, we can be too much in the future. We’re leaning forward. We’re so eager to move forward That we’re not centered in the present.
Bridgette Theurer [00:22:04]:
Mhmm. So it’s interesting to think about that from a bodily perspective. And I just invite our listeners right now To kind of find your center point and then tip forward and notice the energy it takes To be in a contracted state where we’re tipped forward. I mean, your muscles have to contract. And then Back off from that, move past center and lean back. And notice if you had to hold that contraction all day, literally.
Irvine Nugent [00:22:35]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:22:36]:
And the energy that that would take. What we wanna do, of course, is be right there in the middle neither tipping too far forward or leaning too far back, which allows us to To be in touch with our knowledge, our experience, our history, but also our vision
Irvine Nugent [00:22:53]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:22:54]:
the present moment. So I would invite listeners to think about when you go through your day, do you tend to lean a little bit too far forward From center or a little bit too far back.
Irvine Nugent [00:23:08]:
Love that. Love that. You know, even common sayings that we have, oh my god, you’re so stuck in the past, you know. And then this, you know, these sayings, they match up kind of this the the the body and the bodily experience. Normally, we tend to have a a practice, but in reality, we’ve just gone through a beautiful three part practice. And so perhaps as we finish up today, what I would just encourage everyone is to think about how you might integrate these practices as an additional way. We’re not saying, hopefully, you haven’t heard this at all in the episode. We’re not saying that the intellect is bad and the body is good or vice versa.
Irvine Nugent [00:23:43]:
We’re talking about this holistic approach. So whenever you are dealing with an issue, you’re going to think about the issue. But what we’re inviting you to do is are there ways of bringing the body into that process of how you consider an issue that’s rising up and maybe some more information or insights or openings that that will provide you. So say, for example, if you have a meeting or a presentation, you feel nervous about it, about your contribution, so you’re gonna prep and prep and reprep, maybe take a little bit of time just to use that first, you know, exercise around your length and around your confidence and your dignity. Or perhaps you’re in a situation where you feel maybe you’re cutting your you’re cutting yourself off from another person, maybe it’s something you’re confused about, you know, where you should be, as well as thinking about the dynamics of the relationship. Maybe take some time and go into that exercise about our width. And just what does that feel like in the body when you think about that relationship? Do you feel you’ve created a boundary or not? And then maybe you’re in the midst of a decision where you’re worried about its impact. It’s going to maybe impact other people.
Irvine Nugent [00:24:55]:
And you have a history of a decision doing that, and you’re thinking about that past decision as well as thinking out this new decision. Take a little time and maybe think about the dimension of depth. And just where is your body in that? Are you focused in that past mistake? Are you rushing to make a decision before it’s time? And can you not just be present perhaps with that decision where you need to be now.
Bridgette Theurer [00:25:22]:
That’s beautiful, Irvine. You know, this notion of full body leadership, Again, like you said at the beginning, people might think it sounds woo woo. But as I listen to you, I think, boy, it’s one of the smartest things that we can do.
Irvine Nugent [00:25:36]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:25:36]:
Which is to integrate all of our wisdom. Right? Mhmm. And and what does that mean? That means our intellect. It means our emotions. It means our instincts Stinks in our gut because as we integrate all of that, not only does that make us more effective in our decisions and so forth, but it creates credibility and trust.
Irvine Nugent [00:25:55]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:25:55]:
That We all know. We’ve all been around leaders who are saying one thing, but the body is saying something else.
Irvine Nugent [00:26:00]:
Yeah. Yeah. And I didn’t know what you about, Bridget, but I would say you know, we use different language for it, but there are times when we come into the presence of a leader who has it all together and we just feel different. They feel different. We feel different. And I suppose the language we could use is that person is centered. And I think when we when we walk into a meeting, when we when we walk into the presence of someone that truly is centered, that is felt. It’s not just something that’s going on in their body.
Irvine Nugent [00:26:30]:
It extends beyond that, and it is felt by anyone that meets them.
Bridgette Theurer [00:26:35]:
You know, I wanna share 1 final thought that just got triggered when you said that. Mhmm. I Was talking to a client who has never met me in person. She has seen me on Zoom Mhmm. But she’s never met me in person. We we’re gonna have an in person meeting shortly, And she said, you know, the I don’t even know what you look like. The only thing I know is you’re tall. Now, Irvine, you get a kick out of that because, folks, I’m 52.
Bridgette Theurer [00:27:00]:
And so I was, like, no. I’m not tall. I’m very petite, and I’m short. She goes, you’re kidding me. I just pictured you as really tall, like, not abnormally tall, but I thought, you know, 58, 59. And I thought to myself, there’s something about the way that I show up in our conversations where I must be embodying My length. I must be telegraphing a tall spine. Yeah.
Bridgette Theurer [00:27:26]:
And, Steve, this is what we do all day long is we read each other’s bodies And we get influenced by the shape of our own bodies.
Irvine Nugent [00:27:35]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:27:35]:
We wanna do that in such a way that we get we bring it all together. Right?
Irvine Nugent [00:27:39]:
Bridgette Theurer [00:27:41]:
Marvin, thank you so much for this wonderful conversation. It’s always a powerful reminder to me because I am a Intellectual type that lives sometimes in my head and, always a work in progress on integrating my whole body into my decisions and into the way That I show up. So thank you, Urban.
Irvine Nugent [00:27:59]:
My pleasure. Thanks for the conversation. Very powerful.
Bridgette Theurer [00:28:02]:
Take care, everybody. Thanks for listening.
Irvine Nugent [00:28:04]: