Centered was featured in April’s Journal of Peace and Justice from the St. Catherine College.
Matt Branstetter, Chair of Philosophy & Religious Studies Department has written a wonderful piece interviewing Lauren Higdon, our owner and director.
You can view the full journal as a PDF here: http://www.sccky.edu/studentlife/Peace-Justice-Journal-April2014.pdf
Getting CENTERED in Society – an Interview
Matt Branstetter- Do you think we live in a just society?
Lauren Higdon of Centered- No, and immediately that brings to mind: “is it a fair society…. is life fair?” and I don’t really intend to look at life as ‘fair’ because it isn’t. And yet, I feel like my work is to create more balance. So I’m trying to look at balance rather than justice.
Matt- OK do you think our culture is balanced?
M- What is the nature of the imbalance?
L- Our values are imbalanced. In our lives, in our work, what we are striving for is not necessarily feeding us on a spiritual and emotional level. I don’t know if the average individual is really looking at how they actually spend their life. Their work becomes a means to the end. If we can transform that to, as my Dad used to say, “do what you love, love what you do” then we begin to get in touch with our inner passion and find our unique gifts. That is what we need to share with the world. When we are not doing this we end up forcing ourselves into a situation that is unbalanced just in order to survive. When we are merely surviving we begin to ‘shut sown’ internally. Then, we are contributing to the greater imbalance.
M- Is ‘internal’ change the only thing that will lead to ‘external’ change?
L- Yes, and in order for the individual to have the opportunity to create that inner change, they need the support of the greater community and culture. We have a big team here of 30 people! We don’t experience this great change in isolation.
M- What is the balance between working for social change and maintaining our own inner, spiritual equilibrium?
L- Actually, someone came to me this morning with this issue! They had been working diligently for a cause for over the last 17 years and just woke up recently to the realization that their involvement with this issue had allowed their body and spirit to become very unhealthy.
By Matt Branstetter
So now we are back to the saying of Gandhi- “Be the change you wish to see in the world” We must embody whole-heartedly that change which we desire to see.
M- Yes, no one would want to live in a world where the culture is outwardly just, orderly or balanced and yet all its members are inwardly miserable.
L- We often try to create change through various ‘models’ of how we think things should be. People, like Gandhi, MLK… they had to pass through
a time when they were no longer theorizing but were faced with the question of how to embody love in their personal lives.
M- And the fact that they became these paragons of social change was dependent on how their lives reflected their answer. Would you say that to live fully we must pass through a time where we are no longer merely imitating external models?
L- I’m not comparing myself to them, but when we opened this center, there weren’t models for this. I went to business classes and my advisors said I was crazy. “Don’t do this.” “This will never work.” I was getting that all over the place. Then I literally “had a dream” of seeing this working and what it could be and… one of the business advisors actually recently came back and apologized! Change needs faith.
M- One of the stories of injustice in our society involves the place of women, especially in the professional world. A question that arose is not just can women succeed in this world, but can they do this without compromising, and, I know I’m on tricky ground here, their feminine ‘essence’?
L- That is to assume that business is a masculine thing.
M- I would say that assumption has been made. Is there an alternate way of envisioning business?
L- To look at the root of it, I don’t want to assume anymore that business is masculine. What we’ve created here is by far a more ‘feminine energy’ a ‘feminine model.’ And this ‘feminine energy’ is in its nature, dynamic, sporadic, explosive, it’s constantly changing, often unrecognized and you don’t always know what to expect. A ‘male business’ might be much more organized and ‘linear’– I come in to work at a certain time, know what is going to happen, go home and then it’s done. That is not happening here at all! This ‘feminine business model’ is something many people don’t yet understand… or they may be scared of it.
M- What are the main values at work in this ‘feminine business model?’
L- Let’s start with the physical structure of our building and the way its set up. We have many different components and dimensions to our space. We have curved walls, lot’s of rounded features, circles and openings, soft colors. The way we deal with time is more free flowing than some other business models. If an emergent issue arises that needs our attention, be it something practical or interpersonal, we tend to deal with it even if it means adjusting our schedule for the day. I see that as feminine. It’s a nurturing thing. We’re honoring nourishing over order! I’m a mother. I know that being a mother is primary to me and my business must fit into my being a mother, not the other way around. I want to support women, as well as men, as well as people of various ethnicities and ages. How do we do that? We have a variety of classes designed for various special needs that arise throughout the life cycle- from gentle stretching classes and pregnancy yoga to very intense workouts. We have an art area where people from a variety of backgrounds and ages come to express themselves. This variety helps people realize that on any given day we have different needs. This I see as a feminine attribute. With a ‘male’ model there is the expectation that there is going to be uniformity and ‘sameness.’ There are parts of the universe and parts inside ourselves that work that way. Everyday our cells will take in energy from the air in order to continue, our hearts will continue to beat, our skin continue to exfoliate, thankfully much of this happens in predictable patterns; but our emotions, preferences and needs are ever changing. Our place here reflects and provides a home for the more dynamic features of our inner life. So often out ‘here’ in the world we create environments, especially work environments, which are stifling to this inner flow,
M- A typical feminine characteristic involves the ability to multi-task. I see you wear a variety of hats here that seem to be constantly switching around. I notice many different compartments of your space are not separated by solid walls and it gives me the feeling of many things going on at once.
L- Yes, on any given day I might be teaching story-time yoga or having meetings with Commerce Lexington, or St. Catharine professors! There are days I do it better than others… and that all comes back to self care. If I am doing my own practice of yoga, meditation, eating healthy and staying in balance myself, I can handle those things. When I don’t it feels like chaos, which can lead to anger, judgment and imbalance.
M- Yes, and if that’s true for you it’s probably true for everyone else!
L- I think it’s totally fine to admit that we feel absolutely nuts inside sometimes. Just talking about that, allowing our imperfections allows others to feel safe to acknowledge and address their own imbalances. Then we can go to work on these imbalances in a practical way. Balance is a scale that is always shifting.
M- Some would see a business centered around the nourishment of the body as inherently feminine. There are traditional associations- Male=Mind Female=body
L- To clarify for people who may be reading this, when we talk about ‘feminine model’ ‘feminine business’ feminine body’ we are acknowledging that we all have a balance of masculine and feminine. So when we look at the external world it is very much out of balance in those terms. We are all craving, a relief from this imbalance. We need to slow down, to learn to nourish what is inside. This is where the feminine wisdom comes in. Were craving it in such a deep way that were getting sick! If we can feel safe enough to admit that we all need that balance of the masculine and the feminine in order for ourselves to heal then we can help bring that balance to the world.
M- So by honoring ourselves in this way we are honoring society.
L- Honoring society. By acknowledging our own need for balance inside we begin to create the conditions for outer balance.
M- Can nurturing and business really go hand in hand?
L- I cannot imagine a business without them going hand in hand! I’ve spent much of my working life with pregnant mothers and newborns. For me nurturing is completely intertwined with what I envision as business.
M- How has giving birth and being witness so many times to the process of birth informed your understanding of business or for that matter the creation of social change?
L- It shows that life happens in cycles and that change is in the very nature of things. The very process of creating a business plan was very painful because I could not envision or encapsulate everything I wanted this business to be. I made peace with it by acknowledging that this plan would necessarily change and adapt according to circumstances. This meant that I had to find the place of trust in myself that I would find the creativity to meet the challenges of the needs coming in. So the business is a co-creation of plans adapting to the ever changing needs of circumstance. This is much like giving birth. You cannot simply mould a child to fit your desires without some kind of pathology developing.
One practical example of this is that I had no idea how popular our visual arts classes would be. It was not anticipated. It has been interesting to move with changes as they arise. This takes a certain fluidity and adaptability. Also, when I was nursing I recognized that there are some things only I, as the nursing mother, can give to my child. But I also have to acknowledge when I need a break! I need a baby sitter…Here is where cooperation comes in. When we are willing to express our needs and vulnerabilities this opens the door for the intelligence of the group, the tribe, to step in and help raise the child. This applies to business as well as to social change.
When I think back on the process, I see we have gone through all the phases. We’ve dealt with the fertility issues, the birthing process and the infancy. Now I think we’re in the toddler stage. Toddlers tend
to run away and not listen. They break stuff. They are loud. That’s kind of where we are right now figuring out how to have certain boundaries and constraints without shutting down the toddler.
M- And this whole process, as a new kind of model, is contributing to peace and justice?
L- I hope so. If this particular display can help others realize that they don’t have to maintain an overly and stereotypically ‘male’ model for conducting their business and their lives then I’ve made a difference. People of all walks of life, ages and races are coming in here. They don’t know why they feel safe here, but they do. They don’t know what they want from the place, but they take something with them. That’s like a mother. That’s the feminine. It’s not me, it’s the place, the cooperative team, the neighborhood.
To visit CENTERED online, go to www.centeredlex.com.