Dr. Chris Johnson

Johnson, ChrisMaster Somatic Leadership Coach, Deep Listener, Teacher

Chris has devoted her life to the deep listening that underpins ‘what matters most’ in people’s lives.  In Japanese this listening is called Tamashi -the living Spirit, deeper than Intellect and Heart…that informs all of our work. It takes place both in action and in solitude and quiet.  For the past ten years she has been committed to extending embodied leadership to innovators whose life purpose is to generate a new future for us all.

My personal practice is…….

“We’re always practicing something; are you practicing what matters most?” to quote Richard Strozzi-Heckler, a teacher of mine for the past nine years.

Yet, to be more specific, I currently have two practices that serve to support and shape my life. The first is a long-time meditation practice, and the second is a committed practice to the martial art of aikido.

How did you discover your practice?

I ‘discovered’ meditation years ago while in college, though it was a spotty practice at best. Since I discovered the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness in the early 90’s and trained with him, I’ve developed an ongoing, committed mindfulness meditation practice which I now teach in the community.

Back in the early 2000’s I had a coach who challenged me to ‘develop your fierceness’ in living my life and standing in my power. She strongly recommended a body-based practice, in particular, aikido, the art of peace. I took an introductory class, but it took me a couple of years to create the space to explore aikido more fully. I’ve been practicing now for seven years with a great teacher and mostly love it.

 Why do you practice?

I have a daily mindfulness or centering practice of some sort, though I hold the practice loosely. This means that while I may be in sitting meditation most of those days, I might mix it up to do a walking meditation, especially as I’ve re-committed this year to spending more time in nature.

Practicing mindfulness allows me to tune into the source of all life, energy and inspiration. Practicing present moment awareness keeps the conduit open to receiving more and more of life each day, or what Jon Kabat Zinn calls “the full catastrophe.”

I’ve developed more fierceness and confidence, as my coach had recommended, though the reason I practice is twofold: first, to develop self-awareness of my intuitive body in space; second, to tie in to or share musubi (deep connection) with others, where partnerships are formed, deep listening and surrendering occurs, and the next right action taken.

It’s deeply gratifying and hard and while I mostly love it, there are times that this deliberate, focused practice is just plain difficult! At those moments, I wonder, ‘and why am I doing this?’ Yet, the answer always comes that I am deeply committed to developing into a self that can move toward what’s most important to me in this life, my own life’s calling if you will.

How frequently and for how long do you practice?

I attend aikido class three times per week, and more often when I’m training for a big test like the one that I just took this for second degree black belt.

What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how to you move through it?

As a driven sort, what can grab me and pull me out of regular practice is the old belief that “I need to get more done!” and its emotional cousin, impatience. Crazy, yes, but true. I really have to check this one or I’ll talk myself out of sitting or attending aikido class.

So I practice ‘catching myself being myself,’ keeping an eye on those beliefs/emotions that take me off point, and re-focusing on what matters most.

What supports you in staying committed to your practice?

The biggest support here has to do with holding my declaration for the future firmly in mind and heart: I am a commitment to love, fierce grace and flow. I am engaging in my practices not because I particularly feel like it, or even like the outcome, but because I hold my life’s work in view.

A big re-commit each day, which isn’t easy some days at all, is the practice of patience. It’s not my forte yet as a pillar of mindfulness it keeps me focused on observing, feeling into, and allowing life to unfold in its own time, not on my time.

What role does your practice play in your work?

It’s not trivial to say that my practices inform everything I do each day. I teach A Mindful Course™, a mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) course based on the work of Jon Kabat Zinn and informed by Strozzi Somatics.

In my work as a leadership psychologist and coach, I bring experiences from my own life and practices to designing curriculum that serves to develop and deepen the leadership presence of my clients, for the sake of cultivating strong leaders, healthy workplaces, and engaged communities.

Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.

A Strozzi Institute colleague and friend, Deb St. John. Deb has undergone a bout of breast cancer and dealt with it in an intentional, focused and open-hearted manner, an example to us all. And, what she’s relied on has been her ongoing, daily practices.

A practice I’d like to explore is….

or re-commit to . . . . . is writing regularly. While I write in my work, I haven’t consistently made my writing practice a priority even though I can tell you that I ‘know’ I have writing to do, to bring to the world! How’s that!

Anything else you’d like to share about practice.

I’ve both witnessed and experienced the incredible, transformative power of practice. That said,

…painful even. The results, however, are worth every penny—that is, if your life is worth living in any way described as juicy!

For more from Chris, check out The Leadership Pause here.