Friday, March 30, 2007

Allied Ronin Affiliate Richard Strozzi-Heckler Interviewed

The following is a description of a dialogue between Allied Ronin affilliate Richard Strozzi-Heckler and Bert Parlee on the Integral Naked website. The Integral Naked website is a pay service so the dialogue is not free, however, the site (a part of Ken Wilber's Integral Institute) has featured such luminaries as George Leonard, Michael Murphy, Deepak Chopra, Peter Senge, Jenny Wade, Marianne Williamson, Tony Robbins and many, many more. If you are looking for lively dialogues with some wonderful thinkers it is a great service, with weekly updates. It can be found at

A Somatic Approach to Leadership. Part 1. The Importance of “Body” in Body, Mind, and Spirit, in Self, Culture, and Nature

Richard Strozzi-Heckler

Richard Strozzi-Heckler holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, is a 6th Degree black belt in Aikido, and has been teaching somatic coaching, aikido, and leadership over the last twenty-five years. He is co-founder of the Lomi School, Strozzi Institute, and the Two Rock Aikido dojo. He is a successful writer, having published four books including the classic The Anatomy of Change; In Search of the Warrior Spirit, which chronicles how his teaching helped an Army Special Forces unit dramatically increase its measurable performance; and most recently Holding the Center, Sanctuary in a Time of Confusion.

Richard and Bert begin the conversation by discussing some of the more recent activities Richard has been involved in, which have largely been about finding ways to bring a somatic orientation into international relations. He has been working with the Monterey Defense Language Institute, developing a conference called "Somatics and Counter-Terrorism." He also discusses his work in areas like Afghanistan, where he has created a somatic-based leadership program for the Afghani army.

Richard then gives a brief account of his involvement with the bodily arts, tracing it all back to a torn shirt and bloodied nose he received in a fight when he was 13 years old—and his parent’s fateful decision to put him in a Judo class. Later, in 1968, Richard began a meditation practice after spending time in India. He discusses his own definition of meditation as a way to control and exercise attention, a quality he recognizes as crucial in order to be an effective leader ("successful people should know how to concentrate.") As such, he teaches meditation in his workshops, under the guise of "Attention Training," a phrase which flies under the mainstream radar. An Integral Approach would completely agree with this use and definition of meditation, and go on to point out—in agreement with the great contemplative traditions—that not only can meditation train attention in extraordinary ways, but it can offer a radical freedom and release from all forms, functions, and movements of mind. From this Ultimate view, the quality of attention—whether untrained and roaming, or disciplined and pin-point—can be seen as simply another manifestation of the separate self-sense or self-contraction. However, this in no way makes attention training “bad;” rather, it’s one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. All of this simply goes to clarify the fact that meditation can function in several ways, one of which is to train attention, and another is to introduce us to the awareness that is beyond, or prior to, attention.

Richard goes on to offer a synopsis of his own interpretation of the body, which he describes in terms of five domains: the domain of action, the domain of moods and emotions, the domain of learning through recurrent practice, the domain of coordination and intersubjective harmony, and the domain of dignity.

An Integral Approach is often summarized as including “body, mind, and spirit, in self, culture, and nature,” and the somatic arts are an essential and indispensable part of that equation, naturally focusing primarily on “body” and how it affects the other fundamental dimensions of human experience. Likewise, an integral view posits that for every interior feeling, thought, or apprehension there is an exterior and correlative “body” that quite literally “supports” that experience, whether a gross body, subtle body, or causal body. Somatic or body-based approaches quite correctly notice that if you modify any one of these bodies you will produce a change in one’s interior experience, an important truth that must be included in any truly integral model.

Richard's career and practice is one wave on the evolving ocean towards a more comprehensive understanding of the human condition, and we invite you to enjoy this fascinating exploration into his work with one of Integral Institute’s most experienced founding members….

transmission time: 28 minutes

keywords: somatics, Albert Mehrabian, Silent Messages, martial arts, aikido, Monterey Defense Language Institute, terrorism, Afghanistan, Iraq, judo, Chogyam Trungpa, Naropa, Lomi, rolfing, Army Special Forces, George Leonard, Integral Life Practice, The Anatomy of Change, In Search of the Warrior Spirit, Holding the Center: Sanctuary in a Time of Confusion, "What is Integral?," A Theory of Everything.

most memorable moment: "We could say that one of the things that leaders do is that they make declarations about the future, sort of like Martin Luther King's speech. And our basic claim is that when exemplary leaders speak that way they aren't separate from their declaration, they are that declaration. So we have practices where people will make declarations inside of a physical practice, so we bring those two things together."

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