I was lucky enough to be taught by the marvellous Andra Perrin at THNK. She teaches what she calls ‘Zen Shaitsu’ which is about using movement, rooted in Eastern traditions, to learn more about yourself.
We all have behaviour that holds us back and nothing shines a light on it like group work. We had this in abundance at THNK.
I find recognising my frailties is one thing, but actually changing them is really hard work and takes practice.
She got us to do things like flap around the room like birds in a flock. Someone had to decide to head out front and take the leadership, in the hope others would follow.
We noticed how we followed some ‘birds’ and some we didn’t. If our classmate was leading us in an interesting pattern, or was particularly confident, we would go with them. But if they seemed unsure of themselves or they messed us around, we looked for a new leader.
Andra’s insights were also very personal. She made us stand still, knees bent, holding an imaginary ball, for what felt like 15 minutes, but was probably closer to five. She observed the way we were standing and came round and gave us personal feedback. Mine was so bang on. This is what she wrote down for me at the end of the module;
How she did all of this I don’t know.
Certainly there is theory behind her practice. She encouraged us to look at this book The Dynamics of Standing Still by Pete Den Dekker.
But there is also something magical about it. Using the metaphor of our own bodies, that we know and trust so much, to tell us more about how we behave.
What was the impact?
Andra’s class gave me two things; firstly she exposed very gently my blind spots. This was invaluable.
Secondly she taught me how to refine my physical presence to be the leader I want to be. How to ground myself when I get wound up or nervous; how to behave when people are too aggressive or too passive in a group; how to prepare myself for a difficult conversation by physically stepping through the point I want to make.
Oh, and she is hilarious. None of us escaped her sarcastic commentary when we slacked off. And this created a sweet bond between the little group showed up everyday, that itself was worth getting up at 7am for!