Do you listen to the wisdom of the body?
If we can pause and find stillness, we can tap into the great wisdom our body has to share about what we need physically, mentally and emotionally.
Instead of always looking outside ourselves for validation, our bodies can help guide us in what we say yes and no to as we go about our day.
In this episode I’m in conversation with creative visionary Krista Monson, a world renowned story-teller and creative and stage director. We chat about the wisdom of the body and how we can tap into it to inform our choices.
A full transcript is posted at the bottom of this page if you prefer to read.
[Bio] Krista Monson
Krista Monson is one of the most relevant creative minds in the entertainment industry. As a writer of visual story-telling concepts, creative director and stage director, her experience and expertise encompass a remarkable range of live entertainment genres including circus, concert, theater, special events, and social action. At the heart of her work in all areas is her commitment to creating profound storytelling and transformative experiences for audiences worldwide.
Monson spent 13 years with Cirque du Soleil, first as Artistic Director of the renowned production “O” at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, then as Casting Director for Cirque du Soleil’s resident shows worldwide and most currently, as a writer, stage and creative director. Most recently, Monson wrote and directed the critically acclaimed production, VIVID, for the Friedrichstadt Palast in Berlin, the world’s largest theatre stage. Monson is the first woman in the theater’s 100-year history to serve as writer and director.
[Website] Krista Monson
Check out Krista’s website to learn more about Krista and her body of work.
[Blog] Principles for Savouring the Day
If you are interested in the principles that help us savour the day no matter what they day brings, this blog outlines them using some beautiful quotes.
[Book] When the Body Says No
This is a great book by Gabor Maté that explains what happens when we don’t listen to the wisdom of the body.
[Newsletter] Savouring the Day
If you liked this podcast be sure to get my weekly newsletter – a dose of positivity, tips and inspiration delivered to your inbox.
Scroll on down to the comments section and share your thoughts….
How do you tap into the wisdom of your body?
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Show Transcript
Announcer: Welcome to The Being and The Doing. A podcast about wellbeing and the practices that help us have calmer, more focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host, author, and life coach, Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Well, hello, lovely ones. Welcome to Episode 39 of The Being and The Doing. So if you’ve been following along this season, season four, we’ve been exploring some of the principles that go along with this idea of savoring the day: how it is that we can manage the ups and downs of life, be able to really be present to and enjoy all of the things that are wonderful about life and how it is that we can be more mindfully resilient when times are more challenging. And so, we’re diving into some of the principles that go with that. If you’re looking for more explanation about saving the day and those principles be sure to check out the show notes, because there are some links there for you.
Today, we’re going to tap into the principle of honoring your body and I’m excited about the guest that we have today because you may have seen her work and not even realized that you’ve seen her work. My guest today is Krista Monson. Krista is one of the most relevant creative minds in the entertainment industry. As a writer of visual storytelling concepts, a creative director, and stage director, her experience and expertise encompass a remarkable range of live entertainment genres; including circus, concert, theater, special events, and social action. At the heart of her work in all areas is her commitment to creating profound storytelling and transformative experiences for audiences worldwide. And the reason why you may have unknowingly seen her work, Krista spent 13 years with Cirque du Soleil as the artistic director of ‘O’, casting director for resident shows worldwide, and as a conceptor, creative and stage director.
Most recently, Krista wrote and directed the critically acclaimed production VIVID for the Friedrichstadt Palast – that’s my really bad German – in Berlin, the world’s largest theatre stage. She’s the first woman in the theatre’s 100-year history to serve as writer and director. And you might want to check out the CNN series Leading Women which showcased outstanding women at the top of their fields. Along with people like Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg, they profiled Krista.
Krista welcome to The Being and The Doing. And thank you for taking the time to come and share some thoughts about this idea of honoring the body.
Krista: Thank you, Laurel. It is an honor and privilege to speak with you.
Laurel: So, as we were talking in preparation for this episode, there were just so many great ideas about where we could go with this conversation, you and I, about honoring the body. And we settled on something that you mentioned about being able to be in alignment with our values by tapping into the wisdom of the body, which I think is great. Because what I know is that a lot of my listeners have both the challenge of being in alignment with their values, as we all are, as we move in and out of alignment with our values, but also this idea about using that wisdom to be able to be more conscious about what we’re saying yes to and what we’re saying no to. What prompted you to offer up that suggestion of a thread that we could explore?
Krista: Hmm, great question. I’m learning along the way. I’ve been a freelancer…I was an employee with Cirque du Soleil, but in general, I can say for the last 30 years I’ve been a freelancer in Edmonton and across Canada, and now I’m based in the United States. And I realize, probably more so now that we’ve had to put the pause button on or the reshift button in our lives, I had formed a habit of saying yes to everything and it served me. I learn new things. I believe it paid the rent, raised two children, saying yes, and, and I’m enthusiastic. I love what I do. But as I think at my age too and certain maturity and over the years, I’ve realized that there’s a cost to everything and the cost to saying yes, to quote-unquote “everything” there’s a great benefit.
As I said, I learn new things, but I’ve been taking some time and over the course of my career realized that there have been key moments where I just wasn’t sure, there was something blocking me from saying yes. And I thought something was wrong with me, to be honest. Oh, I’m giving up. It’s just too hard. I guess I don’t like challenges anymore; all of those things in a negative way. And so I’ve been really trying to embrace the beauty of no and/or the beauty of taking the time and tapping into what my body is telling me and using that to help realign some of my decision-making.
Laurel: So when you’re thinking about that, when you’re tapping into your body to inform that decision of, is this a yes or is this a no, obviously, there’s a physical aspect to that, the physical aspect of, ‘I’m really tired, probably saying yes to this thing right now may not be the best choice.’ I’m guessing that there’s a physical evaluation that’s going on. Is that a fair statement?
Krista: Yes. It is a fair statement. I remember a particular story or instance for me, it was a number of years ago and I was so used to, when I was feeling unsure, I would poll my friends, I would ask everyone else outside of myself what do you think I should do? What do you think I should do? And I still believe in having our own advisory councils in life, and they can shed some light, but in this particular case, I was almost feeling sick. I had a terrible pain in my stomach, I kind of wrote it off. I was making a decision. I was in the middle of a negotiation, it didn’t feel right. But instead of trusting that, I, again polled people I respected, what do you think, what do you think? And one of my, I would say she’s still a mentor of mine, and I remember calling her and she said, well, Krista, what does your body think? What is your body telling you?
And I thought, Oh, for gosh sake, just tell me what I should do. I don’t want to tap into my body and all of that. Oh, it’s kind of ooga booga. I was approaching it logically and, you know, the pros and the cons, and I wanted that outside validation. And so that’s what she told me. I really respect her. She had worked with this particular group before, so although I knew she had some knowledge to share, that’s all she was going to tell me.
And so, I sat back and then did the math, still looked at the pros and cons. And in the end, I said, no, a few days later. And literally, almost immediately, I’m feeling it now in my own body, as I’m talking to you, my stomach pains left me. I felt empowered. I felt like it was the right thing to do. You know, when you’re deciding whether to buy a new pair of jeans at a shop, and then you think, oh, should I buy them and then you do, and you think, Oh, I’m so glad I bought them. Or, Ooh, maybe I’ll take those back. And in this case, it was just the right decision.
So for me, that kind of started the trust in that journey, being able to, yes, trust the physical, but also really be still and use the breath. I’ve become a yoga guru, not guru, but a yoga lover for the last 10 years. And yeah, I’ve learned slowly, it’s not perfect yet, but just to really be still. So that stillness, it’s not physically it’s not a stomach pain, but it is stillness. And I do find more and more that the inner wisdom starts to come out as opposed to always looking outside for outside validation of what I should be.
Laurel: And that’s interesting – that idea of us looking for outside validation, which really, of course, as you’re saying, we do have that council of people, we have our inner circle that we go and bounce ideas off of, and that’s great. But when we repeatedly do that it, it sort of begs the question of how much trust we have in ourselves that we have to go and have someone else say, do this, do that. But it kind of made me laugh when you were talking about your mentor saying about thinking with your body because that’s actually a thing that I say sometimes: well, what would happen if you think with your body because we’re so used to thinking with her heads. I mean, we have that down pat, we can think with our heads until the cows come home, but the idea of being able to think with your body or access the information that is there in your body as you’re saying, is a foreign concept, I think, for lots of people; or even if they’re open to that idea, it’s like, well, I don’t even know how to do that. What do you mean to think with my body? What would that look like?
Krista: Right, exactly. And I mean, as I said, that particular example was not extreme. I had stomach pain and things like that, but I’m learning more and it’s happening even on a job. We’ll be in the rehearsal hall at two o’clock in the morning and there’s been a plan for a year exactly what this particular scene will look like, the video elements, all of the design elements that will support the action and there’s a plan and each of those designs cost money and time and artistry of those designers. And then, I’ll be looking out and I’ll just stop. And it’s really about being still.
I’ll take off my glasses, you know, kind of these little things, I’ll take off my glasses or take a sip of coffee, or put my pen down, or, you know, these kinds of physical, not planned, manifestations of just pause, wait, something’s informing me. And I have to take off my glasses or I have to go to the restroom or whatever, and then I’ll come back and I’ll think, you know, something will rise to the top: I don’t think we need that. And you know, the people around me say, what do you mean? That’s the plan, that has been the plan. I’ll say I understand it was the plan, but in general, we’re looking for what is the best decision, and we’ve done our best to plan all of that in advance, but now we’re here, it’s the here and now, we are sitting here, we are watching this, our senses are acute and what is the right decision?
And so, in some ways, it takes some courage, you know, to trust that and to know that, you’re actually going to be disappointing people by trusting what your body is saying. So, there’s this play off of the logic, the plan, what the spreadsheet was telling you and what you’re actually seeing, feeling, hearing, touching, sensing in that moment.
Laurel: I love that you pointed towards those physical cues that are happening. You take off your glasses or you take a sip of coffee; that those are all physical gestures, or I’m not sure what the right word for that is, which is interesting. I wonder if each of us has something that we do that we’re not even necessarily paying attention to, that we have a sort of tell; this is the thing where your body is actually raising its hand and saying, Hey, pay attention or pause into the stillness, as you’re saying, that’s kind of an interesting thing. I have to pay attention to that for myself and notice, is there a gesture or a tell where my body is asking to be listened to, long before it’s jumping up and down and yelling at me to listen to it. I wonder if there are some subtle tells there; that’s a very intriguing idea.
Krista: Yeah. To be honest, as you were asking the question, I wasn’t thinking, Oh, I have a list of things I want to tell you. It just came to me in terms of how it starts, is it the in-out or the out-in, but yeah, I think probably everybody does. And it’s interesting to, as you say, cue in to each other. And I feel one aspect that’s helped me a lot in my career is listening. On the one hand, there’s the listening with my ears, what are people saying, what’s in between the lines?
I’m in the business of creating emotion on a stage so sometimes it’s very sensory. The purpose is to create wow, joy and whatever the show is about. But still, there’s this kind of logical way of thinking about it. And so, there’s listening at that level, you know, what is this expert on, did he pause too long? Or I think we have to mitigate a risk here, and so I’m listening and listening and listening and learning. But I think also there’s a form of listening, which is listening to what your body is saying, what your body is, frankly doing. Whether it’s a simple thing, like putting things down or having to pace for a little bit; you don’t know why, I just have to get up and walk this hallway for 40 times.
And there’s something to listen to there. And so, what I find is that there’s another layer of, I’m not necessarily saying why am I taking off my glasses, but I do, trying to trust that, okay, we were in flow or there was something going on and now it’s there for some reason. We need to pay attention to there’s something going on here and we just have to listen. And when there’s time deadlines or I’m in the theatre and there’s 200 people being paid by the hour and, you know, there’s not a lot of time for me to say, I need two days to think about this, but maybe there are those other cues that we’re doing in the moment that can tell us to just be still or go onto something else and come back to it. You know, sometimes it has to resurface in another way in terms of what the actual idea is or what the direction is.
Laurel: Yeah. Because my sense is that for many people, that the idea of stillness, you know, people I think push against that, it’s not necessarily a comfortable place for people to be still, to pause. I don’t think it’s a common thing for people to be thinking about listening to the body, that the body has something that it’s trying to tell you. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that’s not as common a thing as perhaps maybe it should be?
Krista: It’s a huge question. I would venture to say, you know, a lot of it is cultural, how we’ve been hardwired on maybe this side of the ocean or on this continent, or that it’s theoretical, it’s, ooga, booga, it’s for sitting on a mountain and doing something else. If I was a financial analyst or something, you know, they’re very pragmatic people. I mean, we get hero cookies for how long we work. I’m generalizing, but if it’s a 14 hour day, it’s, wow, you know, you really work hard. So there’s this number of hours and number of projects and how many zeros are in your salary?
You know, there’s these measurable ways I think that are very pervasive in our society that we gauge ourselves by, and that we feel that informs us to make solid good decisions and to talk about the body and trusting the body and being still, and looking at the breath. It’s for someone else, it’s for someone who, as I said, sits on a mountain or likes to hike in Nepal. I really have learned. I mean, I was a huge cynic of…I bought into it. I just thought, you know, even working out, I need “no pain, no gain”. Doing some stretches and the tree pose, what am I going to gain out of that? I meanI know it’s 3000 years old, but whatever.
So I really did not adhere to it until I got sick or almost got sick or feeling like I was burned out or feeling like I’m saying yes to everything, and I’m burning the candle at both sides. I’m determined they’re going to be successful or I’ll do everything I can to, to bring success. It was almost leading to a burnout situation and it’s hard to sustain that. So really, I was trying to look at the a marathon approach as opposed to a sprint approach. And so, it made me start paying attention to this area that frankly, I was extremely suspicious of, but all I can say is this helped me.
Laurel: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with his work, there’s a doctor based in Vancouver, Gabor Maté and quite a number of years ago he wrote a terrific book – I’ll leave the link for people in the show notes – a book called When The Body Says No. And he talks about how the body will absorb all of these things that are going on, that you’re putting it through, you know, the never-ending to-do list, the increasing stress. And the body will continually send you signals about, you know, as you’re saying, maybe say no to that, or perhaps this is what you should be saying yes to. It’s continually sending you the signals that we then ignore until eventually in its infinite wisdom, your body just says no, and will knock you on your behind just to make you pay attention.
Krista: Right. Right. And that’s fascinating. I would love to read about him or what he’s saying, but it’s interesting for me and that it’s kind of paradoxical. But as you said, all this information the body is gathering, as we speak and we don’t pay attention to it, but I still call it data. And data has that, you know, it’s a logistical word, it’s solid, it’s data; it’s numbers, it’s being tangible. But I still use that term when I’m watching or I’m on the job, I’m directing, I’m working with people, I’m ideating, I’m deciding to say yes to an idea or not, deciding to say yes to a sketch or not, or is that taking in data?
My body is taking in data and and even to say yes to it, it has to reside or resonate in my body so the data kind of goes through your brain. And again, I’m not an expert at all, I’m just saying in my experience, I can kind of feel it washing over me and then sitting still, just pausing and asking some solid questions: Is this helping further the story? Is this the emotion that we want to convey? Is this job in alignment with my values? Because you’ve taken in data about whatever job it is or whatever you’re working on. And then really being still and trusting that, giving it a little bit of time – could be five minutes, it could be five days – of saying, how does it feel? I know myself that I’m in the business of emotion and I’m an emotional person so at the same time, I try to kind of tone down the emotional reaction.
And interestingly, they do work in tandem. I feel that if I’m still, it lowers the emotional temperature. So it’s not about what is my body? Is it happy? Is it sad? For me, it’s not necessarily an emotion, but it is a feeling, it’s a sensory awareness and just trusting that the data is coming to you in more ways than one. It’s not just with your ears and what your brain’s doing, your fingers can feel it too,
Laurel: Right. It’s not just that your mind says, this is it. And I know I often am helping clients try to tap into that that sense of what do I need in this moment without letting your mind answer the question. Because your mind is going to give a filtered answered. You know, it might give you the right answer or the most effective answer, but often your mind is going to filter it based on a should: this is what you “should” need or you “should” do. And as you’re saying it, when we can sit in that stillness, when we can pause and then ask the question: what is it I need right now, or what feels right, whichever the most important question to be asking at that time and then allowing it to rise up.
And I think the rising up does come from the body – that your body says, this is what we need, which may very well be a physical thing that the body’s saying, what you need is, you know, you need to get up and move. You’ve been sitting in the same position for too long, or that stiffness in your neck is not just about having sat hunched over the computer, but it’s also about some tension that you’re still holding from that meeting that didn’t go well.
Laurel: So Krista, if listeners are thinking, okay, how do I begin? If I’m willing to entertain that the body does hold this wisdom and it’s trying to communicate or be my ally in the unfolding of my life on a day to day basis, if they’re intrigued with that idea, what do you offer as suggestions about how to start accessing that wisdom so that you can apply it to what you’re saying yes to and what you’re saying no to?
Krista: Well, in all honesty, yoga has done wonders and again, I was very skeptical of it. And the reason I say yoga, and I’m sure there are other practices out there, but it’s focused on the breath. And again, I went to yoga because I thought “this is hot yoga”. I’m going to get a great workout and I’m going to sculpt my body and things like that. But I think I’ve been going for about eight or ten years, you know, religiously, but in the end, it’s about the breath and that’s where it starts. And that’s where our life will end is with the breath. So that has helped me. And so I was very skeptical about it. I didn’t start yoga for that reason, but that’s what it’s taught me. When I’m in a really funky situation or responsible for a million dollar production…and again, there’s this, wow, million dollar production, yoga will help that? Whoa. But for me, whether I’m in a class or at the computer and I’m in a tough situation or it’s complex, or I just simply don’t know whether to say yes or no, it is going back to the breath. So for me, that is number one, what has helped me.
And going back to the breath allows us to trust and keeping it simple. It keeps it simple. Because many of us are dealing with complex things and keeps it simple and it allows us to trust and sit still. And that has really, really helped me.
And the other thing I would say, Laurel, is take a look at habits. To be honest, I read a lot of James Clear’s work and it’s quite illuminating that just after years of living just how much of saying yes or doing X or Y or Z is simply a habit; just like we brush our teeth and things like that. And so, I know I want to reshift what I say yes and say no to but it’s such a habit; a habit in my body, a habit in my brain. Of course, yes, even in a discussion, to have the habit go back to the breath, why am I saying yes? Is it automatic? Has this been thought out or is this still in alignment? So asking myself those questions about habits allows me to ask other questions.
It allows space to ask questions. And going back to the breath has allowed me space, permission. I didn’t know how to give myself permission to say no. I honestly thought it was just a way to give up. And so going back to the breath has allowed me to say, just pause, you have permission to change this habit or to ask questions about it. And that has really helped me realize that so much of my “yeses”, although it served me in many ways, was simply a habit just like brushing my teeth. And so that has really helped me just really look at my habits in the face and discover what I thought was a great decision, 75% of it was simply habitual.
And so in order to change those habits or question them or think about them or ask, is there another habit I want to…like, literally Laurel, I started this habit of making my bed.
Laurel: Oh, that’s a great habit.
Krista: I’m not 25 years old. And so I just thought, Oh, I’m always too busy to make my bed or maybe when company comes, I’ll make my bed. And I thought I want to have a fun way to face the discomfort of a new habit. So when I get out of bed now, or my husband and I, or whatever, I will make the bed. Even if I’m late for a meeting or it’s in five minutes or something, I’ll still make the bed. And now this is maybe six months ago only, I get up and I start making the bed and I’m enjoying it…I mean, now it’s a habit. But going back to the breath has allowed me to ask those questions and give myself permission to explore what habits I want for the rest of my life.
Laurel: Well, bringing that sort of conscious intentionality into what it is that we’re doing. I mean, habits are great. I mean, we don’t want to have to be conscious and intentional about every single thing that we do. That would be exhausting. But circling back to that, and I love that you’re making your bed, there’s a lot to be said for a commitment to order and that sort of practice. It also is a terrific mindfulness practice. The making of one’s bed can be a beautiful mindfulness activity, where you can bring your full attention to the active making your bed and you know, folding down the sheet and the pillows or whatever it is, could be quite a cool mindfulness moment.
And I love that what you’ve brought back around to is this idea of the breath, as sort of this gateway into this wisdom of the body. Because in order to tap into our breath, it does require us to be still so that we’re paying attention. I agree with you, I think yoga, I mean, there’s yoga and there’s yoga. But I think a yoga practice in the truest sense of the word can teach you so much about what is on the mat, because whatever is on the mat is also off the mat and it really is all about the breath. At the beginning of last year, my husband and I committed to 365 days of yoga, every single day. And I am so grateful for having done that.
I was a yoga practitioner, but, you know, kind of on again, off again. And so we made this dedication to the practice for a year and it’s life altering in so many different ways. It doesn’t mean that every single day is a 45 minute flow kind of practice. It’s just about a commitment to being on the mat. And so now here we are into year two. I don’t know where it ends, if it ever ends. Now it’s just about a beautiful new habit of every single day being on the mat.
Krista: That’s fantastic.
Laurel: Thank you for sharing a little of your insight and perspective on this, because I think you do bring up an interesting perspective and I love your candor, Krista, for being able to say that was me then, and this is me now, or I thought that, and now I think this. Because when we hear people do that, it does give us the permission of that exploration for ourselves; of, Oh, just because I have been like this, doesn’t mean that I can’t change and begin to think about things differently. So I appreciate you bringing that to the listeners. Just a willingness to, Hey, let’s look at something different. I used to think this, and now I think that.
Krista: Well, you’re welcome. Are we running out of time for me to say one more thing?
Laurel: No, absolutely say one more thing.
You know, on the one hand as we get older, we have experience, we practiced whatever we’re practicing, so our knowledge is honed to sometimes say, or to know instantly what is the right thing, or what is the wrong thing. We’re not going back to the job manual anymore, but at the same time, what I want to do, and that goes back to the merging of the breath, of the body, of stillness, trusting all of that. Being successful in business or in a career is that there are new things happening all the time. There are new technologies in my area. There’s new state craft technologies. There’s the younger generation that are now coming up and they have phenomenal ideas, how to use their coders for video, or, you know, they’re smart, and they have very interesting ideas that maybe counter to where your experience has taken you.
So I find before I say no or yes to an idea that’s presented to me, for example, that pause and that trust in my body, or just literally stopping, taking a big breath or three, and exhaling, will allow me to realize, okay, maybe this great experience, 25 years of experience and what that has honed me to say instantly, in that moment, maybe that’s not the right decision, or maybe that’s not the best decision. It can work, but maybe there’s a better way. So I feel like maybe I’m wrong, I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. There are some risks with that assumption.
I find that the trust in taking the pause and really listening to what my body is saying, or asking more questions before I say, you know, instantly go to a yes or no, has helped the success of things. Like it’s not yes, it’s how I feel or how I want to conduct myself or how I feel going to bed and feel good about that, but also for the product, you know, so I feel that the benefits are profound, not just for ourselves and our bodies, but also for the task at hand. And that’s taught me a lot. That trusting in the body and taking a second and listening, or, as I said, putting the glasses down and going, all right, this isn’t quite working, who else can help me in this? Or I want to ask a question or need to have a conversation, it’s helped the success for the next step. And so, I just wanted to bring that up, that I find it interesting to trust that the benefits are not just for ourselves. They are for ourselves, but they’re shared and they can make what we’re working on a bit more impactful, perhaps.
Laurel: Thanks for sharing that.
Krista: You’re welcome.
Laurel: So listeners, if you’re interested in learning more about Krista and her work, I’ll leave all of those links in the show notes for you. And we will continue in upcoming episodes to be exploring principles like honoring your body that fit into the idea of being able to savour our day and go with the flow and the ups and downs of life. If you are not a subscriber to the podcast, I encourage you to subscribe. You can do that wherever it is that you get your podcasts. And until next time, lovely ones, be safe, be well, and most importantly, savour the day.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing, with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate, and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.