Happy New Year!
Over the winter break, I had the pleasure of going to spend a week at what I term an adult summer camp called Rancho La Puerta. Having some medical challenges in the fall that left me a bit weak, I needed some time to build up some strength. I wasn’t physically able to do some of the things I needed to do, like easily hoist my bag into the overhead bin on flights (!). It was time to focus on my body and my health.
During week at the Ranch, I found my core in Pilates, my toes in Yoga and my hips in Latin Dance class. And I also found out how linked my voice is to my health. In the newsletter below, I’ll share some thoughts about why having a ‘steel tummy’ may not be such a superficial thing.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Taking Latin Dance and Other Ways to Find Your Voice
Steel Tummies, Everyone
Over the past few months as I was deep in the work I was doing, I noticed my posture a great deal. I ignored what I saw, but I was aware I was becoming humped. Stomach out, shoulders slumped, I moved through my trainings with a softer affect than might have been helpful. A retreat buddy of mine, a facilitation consultant from Chicago, had a sense that as some women get older and they slump, they lose a strength other than in their bones. They lose a particular presence they could call upon if they choose. For five days I took Pilates, I worked my core and by god, my posture changed, and when I stood up, I felt differently. I went to Latin Dance class on the last day and Manuel said, “Steel tummies, steel tummies,” and I stood up tall. The effect was evident in the mirror instantaneously. Who was this? Shoulders down, gut in, legs strong. It was quite an empowering moment. Both literally and metaphorically, my strength allowed me to ‘stand up’ for myself. Which leads me to my next thought…
Working Out is a Political Act
Audre Lorde, one of my inspirations, once said, “I consider the care I give my body part of my political work.” A saying never more true than in that mirror I stood at in that class in December. I was tall and proud of my increased stamina. Now what was next? Without the energy I was gifting myself by being at this class, I wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to do all the things I needed to do this coming month. I could have done the tasks, but they would have taken a lot more out of me. In actuality, by spending time on my body and working out, I was ‘working.’ I have always had what I amusingly call my ‘extreme self-care support team’ (massage therapist, acupuncturist, hairdresser) making sure my body functions and looks good. This trip taught me, yet again, that without my team, my creativity and productivity would, without a doubt, decrease. Our Work with a capital “W” depends on our working out our bodies. Period.
Hands to the Sky, Feet to the Earth
A commitment I am making to myself this year is to dance. I spend way too much time in my head. African Dance class makes you realize you have a whole body you are living in. Go figure. When was the last time you spread your toes out on the ground, and thrust your arms upward to the sky and moved your hips? In that transformational one hour, where the rhythms filled my ears, my eyes went up towards the sky, my hands spread out, my heart opened and began to feel my body below my neck! If you have a tendency to live in your head, like I do, spend a lot of time with words or thoughts or systems or projects, perhaps you will join me this year in living more in our bodies. They have their voice too and mine has a lot to say.
For further information on the concepts described above, check out the following two resources:
ALAS Media was introduced to me through my consultant friend, Alan November. “Alas Media is a studio dedicated to telling stories through a variety of media forms.” I worked with them on putting some slides together, but they do promotional video, documentary-style photography and anything else you can dream up. This group of young entrepreneurs is based in Los Angeles and they are a treat to work with. Check them out.
I had the pleasure of attending ACT’s 100th Anniversary Celebration here in San Francisco and sat in on an open rehearsal of the Young Conservatory’s Musical Ensemble. Wow. If you want to support young people and the arts, here is a place to do it. They offer four cabaret shows a year as well. Check them out at www.act-sf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=conservatory_yc_information
Two books on my nightstand this month include: Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. In it, “Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) delivers a trenchant look into the burgeoning business of positive thinking.” And, What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Gladwell “find[s] suitably quirky subjects (the history of women's hair-dye advertisements; the secret of Heinz's unbeatable ketchup; even the effects of women's changing career patterns on the number of menstrual periods they experience in their lifetimes) and use[s] each as gateway to some larger meaning.
Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!
Having Hard Conversations
Field Mentors Training
Alliant International University
San Francisco, CA
Being Generationally Savvy
Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative
The Bay School
San Francisco, CA
Having Hard Conversations
BTSA Coaches Training
Monterey County Office of Education
Equitable Teaching Practices
Math for America Teaching Fellows
New York, NY
For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.
Until next time,
Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleague. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to www.jenniferabrams.com