„Embodiment is the way we are. It is how we feel, relate and do.” – Interview with Mark Walsh, Founder & Director of Integration Training

I met Mark last December via ICF Hungarian Chartered Chapter over a dinner and great talks alongside with a few Hungarian coaches, a nice and thoughtful break during the preparations for Christmas. Following up this first contact Lajos Forrás decided on inviting him to Budapest for an introduction workshop of his approach ‘Working with the Body’. It was clear during that dinner that once the chance comes I myself definitely want to see more of his work and methodology, and was more than happy when we could sit down for an interview and shared our thoughts. Well truly, more listening to his…

Mark Walsh has dedicated his adult life to studying the “embodied” approach to being a leadership trainer. He is the founder and director of Integration Training in United Kingdom (http://www.integrationtraining.co.uk/). Holding a Bsc (Hons) Psychology from Leeds University, coach training with several organisations and numerous training courses on meditation and mindfulness, his experience includes: extensive training and facilitation experience with large and small organisations in the UK and abroad; three years organising projects, training and conferences for the international organisations, including leadership trainings, stress management and conflict resolution work in the Middle East alongside the UN, in the slums of Brazil and with an HIV awareness charity in East Africa. Mark has also 16 years of aikido training and teaching on five continents and an internationally recognised black belt.

MC: Tell us more about the concept of ‘Embodiment’!

Mark Walsh: Embodiment is the way we are. It is how we feel, relate and do. The purpose of our bodies – specifically our posture, movement, tension and bodily awareness patterns – is not just functional in terms of what transports the head around effectively, but is a partial solidification of a set of habits we call ourselves. The way we hold the body, move around, attend and intend through the body, is a way of managing and expressing who we are. The unconscious self, and potentially the consciously created self is visceral. Our shaping is as much a solidification of past conditions and a way of shaping the future based on these, as an appropriate response to the present.

Our physical form is our perceptual, cognitive, emotional, inspirational, relational and behavioral context – it is how we see, think, feel, create, relate and act. How we move is how we are, and we literally ‘lean’ towards one life or another. Embodiment is not just inhabitation – being aware of the body (implying a separate something that is aware of the body as ‘it’) but being aware as a body – the body as I. Becoming conscious of our usually unconscious personal shaping, developing a range of options in this regard, and having the freedom of choice as a result, is what ‘embodiment’ means to me. More poetically, when awareness and embodiment entwine, the body turns from a prison to a question – a question of spirit, of love and of meaning. More concisely, and in the fullest sense: embodiment is the subjective aspect of the body. If this has all been a bit verbose – ‘how we feel, relate and do’ or just ‘the way we are’ are as good definitions as any.

MC: Where do you find the relevance and effectiveness of this approach in nowadays’ modern world?

Mark Walsh: This can be explained by the expression of ‘Disembodiment’, just take industrialization – looking at the body as machine, or consumerism – looking at the body as object… There seems to be a confusion between values and identities, we are more than the way we think, we behave through our bodies, our entire identities, through acknowledging what we are. Yet body hating is more and more part of the modern world and shows the lack of acceptance for the body that is prevalent. Accepting (loving) what you are gives space for acceptance for change and this is the basic for any act on changing. Once you manage to come back to your core self you find it freeing, liberating.

MC: How can you adopt, put in practice this in your work with your clients?

Mark Walsh: All work, life or leadership, learning comes from the body or identity, form our being level. My clients often get practices e.g. how studying how they walk to work. For most of them a whole new world of knowing about themselves opens up, which sometimes can be terrifying at the beginning, but later gives more energy for life, sex, charisma. People have different level of body-intelligence, sub-skillsets, so they all have to see or experience where and how it brings in change for themselves. I use several methods or practices to give them space of experimenting such as centering, the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) experiencing what combination of these they are, leading-following through simple movements, the whole body yet in different styles.

MC: How did you get into this? What is your background, story?

Mark Walsh: I studied psychology and have long years of aikido, so science and physical experience, training came together. First I was sort of inventing myself, then realized there were disciplines, so inventing everything was not necessary. Originally I was looking for superpowers, now more being human is the center. Every year it is getting more and more simple – seeing models, structures, practice, gaining a cleverer yet simpler picture.

MC: What fields are you using this methodology and how do you find its acceptance?

Mark Walsh: I widely use it in relations to political aspects (consumerism, feminism, power), differing by place, culture, economic situations. It is deeply revolutionary and really challenging in economics, business circles. But as embodiment relates to what we feel, think, decide for ourselves, it is all in our body, it is great for social economy, religion, adverts, environmentalism too.

MC: How do you find its effect on your own development, and of your business’?

Mark Walsh: Over the years I see finding new, more important, sincere clients; I am training more trainers, coaches recently; and to my great pleasure cultural barriers are vanishing. Subject of individuals do not seem to shift or change, it proves to me the universal problems and the universality of embodiment.

MC: What were your biggest learnings?

Mark Walsh: How to connect to my clients’ concerns, understanding their strengths, weaknesses, using humor and challenging on deeper level. Also my own roles, growing into a managing role and self-management of travelling a lot as my trainings and my programs are gaining more recognitions and I am opening up hubs in several countries.

MC: Your biggest challenges or difficulties?

Mark Walsh: Deeply cynical persons (yet they have body issues anyways), growing out the other persons I work. And the new age – the lack of logical persons, and superstitions with its barriers, which is due to lack of ying and yang…

MC: What is currently on your mind? Your plans for the future?

Mark Walsh: I recently returned from a workshop of stress management and trauma reduction, embodied peacebuilding training in Israel, which still keeps my mind busy… We are recruiting participants to our new Embodied Facilitator Course, also organising trainings in New York and Russia next. And I am very much into wife-seeking, which brings up several interesting challenges…  

MC: Thank you for your answers on behalf of our readers!

Mark Walsh will be back to Hungary after the success of his program and developing a collaboration with Lajos Forrás. More details and a review on experiencing his workshop shall follow in the upcoming volumes of Hungarian Coach Review.

The interview was made by Csaba Csetneki

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