Exploring Change Through the Wisdom of the Body: Reflections

The work of social change is challenging. It is relentless and it is personal. Our stories, fears, sadness, hopes and joy are reflected in how we show up in the systems we seek to change. The quality of our inner life impacts whether our actions facilitate change or reinforce the status quo.

Yet there is very little space or permission to connect with our bodies as part of the change process. As a result, many people have shared with me privately that they are struggling to sustain their work and wellbeing.

This is why we’ve launched the Connection Café series, and why I was particularly delighted to host Donna Forde’s session last week, “Exploring Change Through the Wisdom of the Body.” A gifted somatic practitioner, leadership coach and teacher, Donna led participants on an experiential journey of self-exploration and discovery, using simple embodiment techniques that can be integrated into our daily lives.

Donna began the workshop with this offering: “Our bodies are our first home and our largest place of sovereignty.” I felt the energy shift across the Zoom screen in that moment, as people looked up, nodded and smiled in surprise. This was not going to be your average webinar! 

Donna deftly held a space for critical analysis, practical exercises and personal reflection. Many participants shared during and after the session that reconnecting with their body wisdom was a nourishing and insightful learning experience. 


In reflecting on Donna’s teaching, three big takeaways have been resonating for me:

Our bodies are the starting point for any change in the world.

We can only give as much to our missions as we are able to access within ourselves. While it is important to ground our work in data and intellectual knowledge, transformational change in the world requires internal processing, sensemaking and growth. 

In listening to Donna’s perspectives and teachings that she shared from leaders like Resmaa Menakem, I was reminded that ignoring our inner wisdom actually constrains our choices and limits our impact. Worse, we can unintentionally cause harm. 

Our bodies store a vast realm of tacit knowledge that we can tap into and use to make braver choices in our daily lives. 

We have been conditioned to devalue and disengage from our relationship with our bodies.

Donna acknowledged that body work is complex and it can be triggering. We have learned to distrust and feel vulnerable in our bodies. Capitalism, colonialism, racism and historical traumas have severed body-based wisdom. Multi-million dollar industries profit from selling our bodies back to us through fitness equipment, diet fads, beauty products and the like. 

Through awareness and grounding exercises, we can honour and reclaim the wisdom of our bodies as a plentiful, natural resource to guide our work.

Reclaiming the language of our bodies can expand our choices.

Our bodies store memories, intergenerational histories and traumas that show up in patterns and ways of being that have been socially controlled. Somatic practice is designed to help us reattune to our body’s innate language.

By drawing insights from our inner signals, we are able to make conscious choices in alignment with deeper, inner knowing. This broader range of choice enables personal growth, interpersonal connection and braver, truer action.

Connecting with Your Body Wisdom

Donna ended with a homework assignment that I am encouraging everyone to try: Over the next week, pay attention to how your body is doing in different situations. Then ask yourself, what does this tell me? Given this insight, what choice do I want to make? 

This simple practice is deceptively powerful. In just a week of practice, I am already more attuned to what “yes” and “no” feel like, which will help me to set clearer boundaries and to make more effective decisions.

I am so grateful to Donna Forde for leading this profound learning experience. By opening up this conversation, I hope that we can celebrate and normalize body awareness and actively engage with these insights as part of our daily work. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences related to embodiment and how your “first home” supports your work.

Lisa Villeneuve (Watson)

Openly’s monthly Connection Café is a space for meaningful dialogue grounded in learning, relationships and good practice. Our purpose is to sustain the work and wellbeing of change leaders through an extraordinary time. Each session profiles an intriguing topic and an amazing guest expert to help guide our discussion and offer helpful tips and tools.

What is Embodiment?

 “Embodiment is our felt experience of the body – working from the inside-out – then harvesting the body experience to impact our personal, relational and environmental contexts.”

– Donna Forde

Donna Forde

Donna Forde hosted Openly’s third Connection Café

Three Big Takeaways

1. Our bodies are the starting point for any change in the world.

2. We have been conditioned to devalue and disengage from our relationship with our bodies.

3. Reclaiming the language of our bodies can expand our choices.


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