Home All Crossing The Bar: Embodiment and Authenticity

Crossing The Bar: Embodiment and Authenticity

written by Donald Officer 17 October 2023

Donald Officer, MA '89, is a strategic thinking practitioner who melds problem solving research models to help clients anticipate unexpected scenarios and opportunities while pursuing what is most meaningful to them. In addition to coaching, facilitation, and consulting Don blogs at The Intention Coach, where he welcomes comments. He is a certified facilitator and a member of the International Coach Federation and the Canadian Positive Psychology Association. Donald's articles can be found here.



I strongly recommend the book, The Mind-Body Way: The Embodied Leader’s Path to Resilience, Connection, and Purpose by Courtney Amo, Julie Beaulac, and Casey Berglund. Let me tell you why.

The Bourne between Mind and Body

Bourne is a word for a generally accepted limit or the flow of small streams entering larger bodies of water. In Tennyson’s poem, bourne fits both descriptions, since the “Bar” in the title was inspired by the sandbar between Tennyson’s Isle of Wight home and the North Atlantic Ocean. In the Victorian poet’s lines, that ever-shifting bar stands for the mysterious in-between of life and death.

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson: last verse of Crossing the Bar

But there are other bournes that serve as significant boundaries that humans know to be real. Where does body end and mind begin? Philosophers have struggled as much with this bourne as with the life-death one. Artificial intelligence has generated a new urgency to decipher the perceived mind-body division. But maybe we’re asking AI to bark up the wrong tree.

Body Messages

The three authors of The Mind-Body Way have written a book so seamless in its clean style and forthright message that you can’t tell who wrote which parts. Courtney Amo, Dr. Julie Beaulac, and Casey Berglund admit sharing a common exuberance for the topic.  Together, they show with vivid examples, many drawn from direct experience, that the hard problem of consciousness in a material world is hardly a problem at all. The main premise in The Mind-Body Way is that our bodies offer remarkably apt counsel to our minds because the two are indivisible when we attend to their connection. We would do well to heed body messages whenever and however they make themselves known.

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The authors remind readers that discerning and interpreting body signals is critical. The case has been made many times before, but this book is refreshingly practical and applicable. Most other self-help books rely too heavily on broad visioning and optimistic leaps of faith. Sometimes faith is well rewarded, but eventually any confidence nosedives unless it can stand up to the test. The work of these authors is grounded in appropriate science.

Six Pillars of Competent Awareness

Following the thread of The Mind-Body Way, readers learn to build on six pillars of competent awareness in the context of three leadership styles. The authors wrote the book especially but not only for leaders. Its declared purpose is to build confident decision-making capacity, an indispensable strength for any effective leader. Management books mostly emphasize broad skills or task specific competencies. Those capacities are necessary but never enough because the actual world does not unfold like chapters in a textbook.

Sea meets the sand

Of the six mind-body pillars, the first two are foundational: building body awareness and working with a mind and a body connected through the nervous system. Both of these core pillars concentrate on introspective mindfulness, that is, mindfulness turned inwards on itself. By practicing self-compassion and non-judgmental attention to personal feelings, we can avoid spinning our wheels.

The other four pillars take a person out of the head and help restore embodiment. Together they build courage and authentic connections with others. We can use them to test and integrate emerging body wisdom, helping us realize purposeful contributions to the world.

Trust What Your Body Tells You

Implicit in truly listening to our bodies is faith in the whole process since putting trust in what our bodies tells us requires sincere optimism regarding the body’s authority. When considering the connected mind-body system, there is a strong affinity with positive psychology concepts such as PERMA, growth mindsets, and signature strengths.

Awareness may not come until we’ve seen evidence to support our trust. Sometimes the evidence is stark. Carrie, a circus performer and one of the interview subjects for the book describes her body-sourced intuition warning her not to rehearse on the day she sustained her concussion. “I felt off, but I pushed through,” she explains as she apologizes for still fuzzy thoughts.

Mind-Body Connections and Leadership

In this complex world, many problems demand different approaches. With practice, we can learn how to apply the appropriate one of the three modes of leadership embodiment as called for. We might start as explorers feeling our way out of our familiar comfort zones. Further along, our bodies might signal connections and lead with positive go-aheads. Perhaps our most satisfying roles as leaders or engaged team members will be as integrators, bringing people, ideas, and effective actions together. That’s as rewarding as it gets.  

Why This Book Matters

The Mind-Body Way is a new competitor in a tough field. The authors are well-qualified and experienced in multiple disciplines: clinical psychology, coaching, facilitation, and yoga being foremost among them. End of chapter exercises help build the pillars, while journal writing and self-reflection also build conscious connections from within. I believe that practitioners of coaching, therapy, and other positive interventions will clearly benefit from this book and the practices it encourages.

Man on a beach

The embodiment challenge in this distracting world is formidable, especially for those who live in that part of their bodies that sits on their shoulders. Disappointment with other self-help paths may work against a desire to try these ideas. The noise of the world continually seduces our attention, so we do not always hear the voices of our bodies. No book or system can easily overcome such distractions. But I’ve been reviewing books with similar aims almost since Psychocybernetics was published in the sixties. Some are better than others, though most are earnest. This one is the real deal.

References

Amo, C., Beaulac, J., & Berglund, C. (2023). The Mind-Body Way: The Embodied Leader’s Path to Resilience, Connection, and Purpose. Moncton, Ottawa, Calgary: mindbodywaybook.com.

Langer, E. (1990). Mindfulness. Da Capo Press.

McGonigal, J. (2022). Imaginable: How to Create a Hopeful Future In Your Own Life, Your Community, the World. New York: Spiegel & Grau.

Image Credits

Sandbar Photo by Yohan Marion on Unsplash

Sea and sand photo by Shifaaz shamoon on Unsplash.

Man on beach photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash

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