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Pedagogo S3E7: Living Our Values and Bringing Our Humanity to Our Work

Dr. Bheda talks with Libby Smith, an organizational healing facilitator and program director of M.S. Applied Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Stout, about mindset changes and daily actions that we can adopt to take self-care as seriously as our other responsibilities. 

Guest Bio:

Libby Smith (she/they) is an organizational healing facilitator, as an experienced and holistic evaluator and educator she excels at the human component of evaluation and organizational change. Never one to shy away from crucial conversations, Libby deftly balances accountability and compassion. Their work focuses on building equity and accessibility through personal growth & embodiment practices. Libby uses all of these skills to provide intersectional and liberation-forward guidance to organizations and clients seeking transformative change.

Libby has an MS in Applied Psychology & works with Catalyst at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Viable Insights in Tucson, AZ. She has been practicing breathwork since 2018, primarily with the guidance of Amy Kuretsky, and has trained in breathwork healing with David Elliott. They have also studied somatics with both Generative Somatics and Strozzi Institute teachers. Libby offers a weekly breathwork circle called Being Human At Work where academics, evaluators, researchers and others come together to explore. She loves to walk in the woods, take photos, and has 11 year old twin niblings.

She is a frequent contributor to the aea365 blog, you can read recent posts about using intuition in our work,  racial healing in community, using our power/privilege to transform, feminism in evaluation, centering relationships and trust in our work, embodied healing, and teaching interpersonal skills.

https://workwithlibby.com/ 

 

Transcript:

​​​Divya:

Hello, hello, dear listeners. I’m so glad for you to join us today as I talk with the wonderful Libby Smith about how we can live our values and bring our humanity into our work as educators. Libby Smith is an ​organizational healing facilitator. As an experienced and holistic evaluator and educator, she excels at the human component of evaluation and organizational change. She was elected and serves on the board of the American Evaluation Association and is one of the best people that I know in balancing accountability and compassion within any given context.

Divya:

Now they are an amazing facilitator, and I can say this from personal experience. They are never one to shy away from crucial and critical conversations and their work focuses on building equity and accessibility through personal growth and embodiment practices. Libby uses all of these skills to provide intersectional and liberation-forward guidance to organizations and clients seeking transformative change. Libby has an M.S. in applied psychology and works with Catalyst, an evaluation unit at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and with Viable Insights in Tucson, Arizona.

Divya:

She has been the program director for the Wisconsin-Stout M.S. in applied psychology program since 2013. Now they engage in breathwork practice and teach that as part of their coaching practice and organizational work, and I am so, so glad that they are here to join us in this conversation today and to walk us through how we can engage our own humanity in the work that we do as educators because that’s so needed today, given the context of higher ed, given where we are in terms of our stress levels as educators.

Divya:

On a personal note, I know that she loves to walk in the woods, prioritizes health, prioritizes well-being, given her breathwork, loves taking photos, um, is very creative with some artwork that I have seen, um, and she has two 11-year-old twin niblings. Oh, why did I say two 11-year-olds (laughing) twi … Has, (laughs) has 11-year-old twin niblings, niblings is a new word that I learned from Libby … Libby, could you tell us what niblings is?

Libby Smith:

Yeah, it’s-

Divya:

It’s not like food, right (laughing)?

Libby Smith:

Yeah, (laughs) I know, It’s kind of a funny word that way, but I really like it. So it’s, uh, basically a gender neutral way of saying your nieces and nephews, and so, you know, if you think about nieces and nephews and you think they are the children of your sibling, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

You have niblings.

Divya:

I love it.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

I’m going to use this now. Thank you for, for one more nugget of information today. Thank you.

Divya:

Welcome, Libby. Thank you for being here.

Libby Smith:

Aw, thank you, Divya. That was a very generous, uh, introduction you gave me. I love the way you sort of, uh, mixed up the things I wrote and made it personal to you too. I’ll just say, too, it’s been, uh, just a pleasure to get to know you over the last year as well and all the things, you know … I feel I could do a similar introduction for you-

Divya:

(laughs).

Libby Smith:

… about all the wonderful things that you bring to the work that we get to do together, uh, but I guess this, this is your podcast. Your listeners know you.

Divya:

Yes.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

So, so, folks, for those of you who want to know more about Libby and her work, we have a wonderful bio of hers and contact information, on our website. Please visit ExamSoft.com/Pedagogo. Libby was kind enough to share some links of some of the written work that she has engaged in, some of the articles that she has published, and the knowledge that she would like to share with us. So, again, welcome everyone and thank you, Libby.

Libby Smith:

Ah, thank you, Divya.

Divya:

Okay. So the first question that I have for you ties directly into the state of affairs today that we face as educators. During this past year, with COVID, with racial justice finally kind of gaining center stage, and even before then, we see so much stress and burnout among educators, right? There’s just a lot going on that we’re dealing with. So given your experience in psychosomatic work, I’m sure you see the need for this work that you do is so important.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

Could you share a few insights on why we are the way we are-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… and why we are experiencing what we are experiencing (laughing)?

Libby Smith:

I wish I had some more like, more like firm answers for you, but I feel like I do have some, some insights. Um, the first thing I really want to start out with saying about kind of everything that we’re going to talk about here today is that we’re, we’re going to talk about a lot of these issues in geared around sort of like what’s going to sound like self-care. Right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And it’s going to sound like we have like all this like individual responsibility to do this work. And I think it’s really important to say, from the outset, is that some of these problems that we’re talking about around COVID and what’s happened this last year, these aren’t problems that we can self-care our way out of, right? The system is-

Divya:

Yes.

Libby Smith:

… un- unsustainable, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And it is not our individual fault that we feel this way within the system and what’s been happening this last year.

Divya:

Thank you for saying that, yeah.

Libby Smith:

Yeah. I think that’s really important to say because, as we start talking about self-care and how we manage our own energy and our own nervous system, there are things we can do on an individual level to care for ourselves and ultimately care for the other people around us, but at the same time we need to not be like judging ourselves for-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… like th-, particularly this last year being very overwhelming, right?

Divya:

Right. Right.

Libby Smith:

So I just think that’s im- important to say.

Divya:

Thank you so much for saying that-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… because I think, often, we are like, “Oh, so-and-so is able to manage. Everyone is able to manage. Why am I not able to manage?” and you cracked through the heart of it to say like this is a system that has been created and we’re all responding in different ways and coping in different ways, so thank you. Yeah.

Libby Smith:

Yeah. And these things, you know … everything we’re going to talk about, and I think there’s been a trend towards having these kinds of conversations over the last year, but none of these are new issues that arose with COVID or arose, you know, as we had sort of racial uprisings last summer, um, none of it’s new.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

But I think we’re finding new ways to talk about it and we’re talking about it in new spaces and I think that’s what’s really important, I want to maybe go back a little bit to even pre-pandemic, that I feel a lot of gratitude for the work that I was doing maybe two or three years before the pandemic-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… that did, in many ways, prepare me for the work that I’ve been able to do during the pandemic and to the insights that I have been able to gain about what’s been happening with us and, and feel like I, I understand it to a degree.

Divya:

Okay.

Libby Smith:

And, and, ultimately, you know, that journey I was on was my own journey of self-change and I should say that I am still on, right-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Libby Smith:

The pandemic has not been easy for me either. I didn’t have it like all figured out before we started it and I’ve just been fine, –

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Libby Smith:

… because, ultimately, it comes down to like understanding our bodies-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… and learning to live in our bodies a little bit more. So even as we talk about bringing more humanity to work, (laughs)-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… sometimes one piece of that is like sometimes we only bring our brains to work and that piece of our brains that’s devoted to whatever our career path is. Right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And so we’re only showing up with this like little sliver of ourselves so often. And so, if we’re really talking about bringing our full selves to work, where that starts on the personal level is learning to inhabit our own ​bodies.

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

And everything, everything in our culture pushes us away from that, right? From our health care system that really teaches us to not trust our own bodies, um, to, you know, issues around (laughs) ge- gender where we like we question who we are supposed to be in our bodies. There’s all sorts of ways that we are sort of socialized to not inhabit our own bodies.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

So a lot of my work is just geared towards what sounds simple of just like learning to be in your own body, but that can also be really scary for people.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And this year has made it even more scary. So for everybody, as we think about COVID, you know, and like … (laughs) I mean, I’m sure everybody went through that thing of like (coughs) is that COVID? (coughs) Is that COVID?

Divya:

Oh, my God, yes (laughs).

Libby Smith:

We’ve been, we’ve been so like attuned to like this anxiety in our body, right-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… that we even, we even, in this least year, forgot to also feel good in our bodies.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

So like this year, both with COVID and, you know, the racial uprisings, with really, you know, that phrase around, you know, that has, has come along with all the violence that we’ve seen of “I can’t breathe.”

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

I’m a breathwork facilitator and I used to say this thing in facilitating breathwork, the breath is available to all of us. I used to say that. I don’t say that anymore more ’cause that’s like … it’s a hard thing to hear-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… if you’re (laughs) … and particularly for a person of color who like is that, that violence feels very close to them. The breath isn’t available to everybody and that, this last year has really shown us. And so this year has put incredible pressure on our nervous systems and, as we think about our own self-care, one of the things I hope to leave people with and, you know, there’s been lots of conversation about this this year and so maybe people are already familiar, but like thinking of our self-care as nervous system care, and I don’t think we often think of it that way, but it is really our nervous system that has been, this year, in this constant sort of fight-flight mode. I mean, that’s a very kind of simplistic way of saying it, [crosstalk 00:10:12]-

Divya:

So it’s not bubble baths and spa days?

Libby Smith:

No.

Divya:

Yep. Okay.

Libby Smith:

I mean, those are things are great, like taking care like-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… but at the same time, it’s like learning to notice your own energy and to intervene (laughs)-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… in your own energy.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

I think this year has taught people a little bit more about rest and-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… and what real rest looks like and –

Divya:

I think we’re still learning about it, right-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… the, the concept of rest and I saw a news article that there was a California legislator who has, who has submitted a proposal for 32-hour workweeks and I’m like, “Yes, please, can that pass (laughs)?”

Libby Smith:

Hallelujah. Yeah. Well, that goes with, back to what I was saying is like what we’re doing is unsustainable.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

I mean many of us who are in full-time, 40-hour-a-week jobs are working far over 40 hours a week. I used to make this little joke about my, my job here that I’m currently in, my, my full-time position, that 75% of my time was assigned to our unit that does evaluation, and the other 75% of my time, I worked with graduate students.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Right?

Divya:

Yep.

Libby Smith:

And so I think, as academics, we often take that on as a badge of honor-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… or we’ve been given responsibility or we have this opportunity and we’re going to put it on our CV, but we’re, (laughs) we’re overworking ourselves.

Divya:

Right. Yep. That’s, that’s so spot-on because I’m just, I, as I’m listening to you, what’s coming up for me is this idea that I, I bring in my full self to work and then I find that, even outside of work, whether it’s on my phone like I’m not disconnecting. People say, “Oh, disconnect, go to the woods,” but it’s like the minute you have work on your phone, even if you say, “Oh, I’m not going to have the notifications come on,” you’re still like searching the email, like you wake up and, first thing, you’re searching the email.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

I’m finding I’m, I may not be present with my family. That adds stress. And then I’m so exhausted with all the energy-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… that I bring in to being my best self, like not my-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… whole self, but my best self to work, that like all the other not so great parts of me need like a release-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… and that comes out with family in the most negative ways, right (laughs)?

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

So (laughs) …

Libby Smith:

You know, there’s, there’s this practice that I do, a really simple practice, it’s a somatics practice, just a simple centering practice, um, but there’s a-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… there’s a piece in it that I think will quickly kind of explain where we’re often at. So even if people don’t relate to that sort of fight or flight mode, if you think about centering your own body and just like settling, physically settling, emotionally, and like settling into your center, where we often are is we’re leaning in. We’re checking, checking, checking email. We’re taking meetings. We’re constantly leaning and we-

Divya:

Forward, right.

Libby Smith:

… we, we were told, for a while, to lean in, right? That was the-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… that was the refrain, seven, eight years ago, oh, especially as women, you got to lean in, and that meant being like connected. You can’t risk, you know, that opportunity that you might miss.

Libby Smith:

And so, from this centering perspective, I’ve really learned like … we all have a somatic shape too.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

We all have these condition tendencies. For some people, it’s definitely lean in. For some people, during, especially during this pandemic, is like anxiety has risen. Our condition tendency has been to lean back, check out-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… like, “I don’t, I don’t want to engage with people,”

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… which isn’t always comfortable, you know, where you want to be is in the center.

Divya:

I’m doing this.

Libby Smith:

Yeah (laughs).

Divya:

So, listeners, as I’m doing this as I’m talking to Libby-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… and I would ask you to try-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… to just think … like so, unless you’re walking and listening to this podcast, if you’re sitting somewhere, just think about your position and see whether you’re-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… leaning in or in any meeting or in any-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… context, like see whether your body is leaning forward or leaning back.

Divya:

And I can immediately-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… like for me, for my, my body, I, I can see that, when I lean back, I relax a little bit.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

So and maybe for other people, it works the other way around, but what makes me-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… I’m excited when I lean in. I am invested-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… but, oh, boy, I relax when I lean back (laughs).

Libby Smith:

Yeah. Well, but the, the leaning back can have a couple things, so like … so for people who constantly lean in-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… the leaning back can bring a little bit of that relaxation.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

For people who tend to always lean back, starting to lean in can bring in some anxiety, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And so like you, you feel almost a little stuck in that lean back place. So a lot of the work that I do is, particularly with the breathwork and somatic practices that I do personally and share with people that I work with, it is to learn to sort of center yourself.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And the, and the word that I often use in my practice is presence.

Libby Smith:

And so I think we’ve all had the experience of walking into a room maybe to see a speaker or something and you just, you know when a person is present.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

You’ve been in a one-on-one conversation with someone, right, and they just show up and they are fully present with you. It’s about something more even than they’re not checking their phone. It just means they’re making themselves both emotionally available and are, you know, they’re, they’re sharing their emotion and whole self while also being available for you to share your whole self, right?

Divya:

Yeah. Yeah.

Libby Smith:

And so I think, particularly in a lot of the work that we do as facilitators and academics and evaluators, we have to be able to show up in some presence-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… to listen to our students, listen to our clients, listen to, you know, people who are showing up in focus groups, whatever it is. I think it’s incumbent on us in these roles to build that sense of presence.

Divya:

Right. Yep. And would you say that that then presence takes up a lot of energy and so then that additionally requires self-care or like cognizance around our nervous system and whether we are in anxious mode or fight or flight mode-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… or strung up?

Libby Smith:

Well, I think the, the path to presence is learning to notice those things, right, noticing where your condition tendency is, noticing where your own energy is, uh, being able to identify your own emotions of like what am I feeling, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Where do I feel it in my body? So I’m like facilitating a conversation between a group of people and maybe the tension rises in the room, they’re disagreeing about something, I’m the facilitator, I’m responsible for steering it, and I can feel my own chest sort of like getting tight as this is happening, maybe a little headache coming on, and I’m sensing some frustration. Can I, in that moment, choose (laughs)-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… to move back to center, to breathe, to notice what feelings are coming up in me, and make the choice to maybe pause the conversation or what, whatever? I think so often we’re, particularly around conflict, hesitant to intervene, like we don’t want to engage in that conflict, so many people. Some people are okay with it. Other people are hesitant to engage in that. And so so much of that is checking in with ourselves and noticing what’s happening in our own bodies and feelings-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… and so you, you asked the question is it more work to be present, you know, is it hard to be present?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

I don’t, I don’t think it is necessarily, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

I think, when you start to do the work to really inhabit your own body-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… it can be challenging at first and maybe feel like it takes more energy, but I feel like, over time, as you really build that practice and build those muscles for being present, returning to presence, that it gets easier, right (laughs)?

Divya:

Right. Right.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

I think what you’re telling me so is, is the idea of breathwork, the idea of being present, being aware of ourselves, like what is our nervous system triggering-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… because I know I’ve been in situations where you may have like a toxic leader or you may have like toxic colleagues, higher ed, like how political it is, higher ed, (laughs) and the politics of, of higher ed-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… and, and all of that. And so, as we’re dealing with all of that and trying to do our 100% to advance our career and our 100%-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… for students and like 100% with service and 100% with research and whatever it is, like we’re giving so much of ourselves that we need to start noticing, so and what you’re saying is keep noticing so that you start understanding like… meta-cognitively, you start understanding how you’re responding, what your emotions are, what your triggers are-

Libby Smith:

Right.

Divya:

… are you waking up stressed about a meeting-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… which maybe this is not the right place for me if I’m waking up every morning going to work where I’m thinking five times before I send an email, you know, (laughs)-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… whether this is going to be interpreted this way or this way-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… or that (laughs). like I need to pause, I need to walk away, I need to come back, like take time.

Libby Smith:

A lot of what I end up talking about in my work, too, is, uh, having good boundaries, right? And so that’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, you know, around a lot of different things, but so much of like having good boundaries is our, like our own energetic boundaries of knowing what we’re really available for, knowing am I able to fully engage in this space based on maybe a colleague who’s disrespecting me or whatever it is. And so starting to notice what you are actually available for and what are the things that you’re showing up for that are kind of like, you know, crushing your spirit to some degree (laughs). I mean, I know that sounds-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… like, a little bit harsh, but like how I envision breathwork too, though, is this idea when … I do a practice, very specific kind of breathwork, but when we breathe … and I will, I do want to, I want to pause there and say there are many ways other than breathwork to get into embodiment and do embodiment. Breathwork happens to be the primary one I practice, uh-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… but there’s lots of different paths, meditation, different things that you can do, but when I think about breathwork, though, what we’re doing in the act of breathwork is kind of stirring up all of the emotions, (laughs) impatience, anger, (laughs) sadness, grief, that we have to stuff down every day just to get through our day, right-

Divya:

Right. Wow.

Libby Smith:

… and that we, we don’t have like an outlet to express them.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

We have to just suck it up and go to the next meeting. We just have to, you know, whatever it is, (laughs) we just-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… put your head down and get through it, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And we do a lot of that. And we don’t have a lot of good avenues in our culture yet for saying no, and that’s, and that’s a little bit what we saw in the Olympics with Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, them saying, “No, actually, I can’t do this (laughs),” you know.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

“I’m, I’m not available for this-”

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

“… because of my, my own needs.”

Divya:

And it’s such a … right, and what you’re talking about this, this ability to draw boundaries, I, I feel like it’s also cultural. It’s so gendered, you know, in-

Libby Smith:

Yes.

Divya:

… in terms of like are you being selfish or you can be perceived as taking up too much-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… space and-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… (laughs) you know, pushing back-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… like are you being unreasonable? So there are all these thoughts that come up and so I appreciate you saying that. In higher ed especially, it’s so hard to draw boundaries because it seems so political, you always like keep thinking about am I going to lose something, is it, what, at what cost, can I-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… can I say this to this professor? And I feel like it starts as a student, right? It starts with that student-faculty relationship-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… like even in K12, yeah.

Libby Smith:

A lot of, well, yes, also in K12, but a lot of this is also really baked into our higher ed system that somehow … and, and it’s just higher ed, but it’s the, the sense that our worthiness is tied to productivity.

Divya:

Wow, I want to say that again. Is our worthiness tied to productivity? We need to rethink that. Okay, yeah.

Libby Smith:

Our wor-, our … I will say it, I will say it clearly, our worthiness is not tied to productivity-

Divya:

Is not (laughs), right?

Libby Smith:

… is not tied-

Divya:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

… but there is the sense like that’s what, what happens in higher ed is that like how … it’s how many articles can publish, how many, you know, it’s like things you can do, how many degrees you have and how far ahead you get. And it is this sort of … it can be this sort of like cycle of like, you know, taking, continually taking on more because we think our self-worth is derived from, the letters after our name or the number of, well, publications we have or the conferences we presented at or the awards we’ve won, yeah.

Divya:

And, and could I just add to that, what I’ve also noticed, and this is completely like anecdotal, so I don’t have research, but I have often seen like the most junior faculty, adjuncts, lecturers, like the people with least positional power often being asked to do the most and, and then having an inability to say no because they are not in positions of power and then that’s actually detrimental to their advancement. So whether it’s female faculty or whether it’s, faculty of color, junior female faculty, like taking on these-

Libby Smith:

Yes.

Divya:

… responsibilities that are not going to advance their career and so I, I mean, at least I have noticed that. I don’t know whether our listeners have noticed that, but [-

Libby Smith:

Yeah, I’m no-, I’m not aware of any particular research on it, but, anecdotally, yes, I see it’s part of, you know, like I see it as part of a Twitter conversation all the time I think it’s, it has, again, come up more in this year of like, um, what, (laughs) what we’ve been asked to do through this pandemic, and I, I look around and some of my colleagues who have put in, you know, 80 … especially last summer as we were trying to prepare for a new academic year in this new COVID environment, people who had no contracts, over the summer, still putting in full weeks of work trying to prepare and, you know, some institutions did a great job of thanking (laughs) their employees.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Um, some people got little more than, you know, just a sort of a thank you, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Um, some pro-, maybe didn’t even get that. And so I actually said to a few people last summer, “You’re doing everything you can to sort of like (laughs) … you’re, you are sacrificing for the students,” ’cause it’s always the students. If you ask a faculty why they’re doing that, they’ll say it’s for the students, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

“So you, you know, you are sacrificing for this institution, for these students, but the institution’s never going to have your back.”

Divya:

Right. Yep. And I would say this is true for, for any company, right, like that we always think that our work-

Libby Smith:

Yes, any organization.

Divya:

… is so invaluable-

Libby Smith:

Yes.

Divya:

… that, that we think that we have to do, give it our all, but we are always replaceable (laughs)-

Libby Smith:

Right, right.

Divya:

… in some way. Like, I mean, obviously-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… nobody will come in with our strengths, so when do we prioritize ourselves, so great, great point. Going back to what you were saying about drawing boundaries, could you say more? Yeah.

Libby Smith:

Yeah. I mean-

Divya:

How do we do that? How do we (laughing) …

Libby Smith:

How do we do that? Again, very, very much tied to starting to notice your own energy. You know, like this … I want to say, too, that like these aren’t things that I have solved and now I’m perfect at.

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

Everything is a practice, and we practice it and, you know, we get better at it, but there, there’s no like, “I’m good at this now and now I don’t need to like, you know, attend to it.” It’s-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… it’s just the things we do-

Divya:

Build the muscle and, and keep-

Libby Smith:

Right.

Divya:

… feeding it some protein-

Libby Smith:

Yes.

Divya:

… and come carbs-

Libby Smith:

Yep. Yeah.

Divya:

… and, and then exercise it again, so (laughs).

Libby Smith:

Right. Right.

Divya:

Got it. Okay.

Libby Smith:

So, so, uh, again, I draw everything back to really getting to know ourselves, right? So can we start to notice our own energy and our own emotions? Can we … and then, at that point, really start exploring our own values, too, and what we, what really brings us joy.

Libby Smith:

What’s, what is going to help us build the life that we want to live. So … and sometimes it’s really (laughs) hard to know those things if you haven’t slowed down enough to feel it. And we can end up sort of chasing after things that we think will bring us joy that aren’t bringing us joy. And so it’s creating times of rest, times of stillness, in our own lives, so whether that’s through breathwork, whether that’s through meditation, yoga, being in nature. There’s lot, there are lots of different paths into this, but the, the idea is to find that stillness (laughs)-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… quiet, where you can actually sort of tune into yourself.

Divya:

So, so two thoughts are coming up for me as I, as I listen to you talk about this. So the first one is so I find often that I’m giving advice to mentees or giving advice to colleagues or friends or people that I care about, like advice that I don’t take for myself, right, about self-care and about drawing boundaries, and so I’m, I’m realizing that what I tell other people, I need to implement and I need to investigate, dive deeper into why am I not implementing what I would want for my child-

Libby Smith:

Right.

Divya:

… or what I would want for my best friend or what I would want for my-

Libby Smith:

Right.

Divya:

… sibling or whatever it is, right? So there’s that aspect, and then I’m also thinking, as I listen to you, I think there is an element of communication, like learning how to communicate in ways which … and maybe this is a woman thing, but there is an element of, if I draw my boundaries or if I notice, then me communicating that can be perceived so that, where there’s a concern around perception of am I being aggressive or am I being perceived as something that will impact my career or impact my livelihood or impact my financial well-being, or my relationship, whatever it is-

Libby Smith:

Right.

Divya:

… and so figuring how do I communicate this in a way that-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… that gives the whole context and allows me to be who I am. Um, so those were the-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

… so the thing that’s coming up for me as you bring up … is, is actually kind of the, sort of the same thing-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… you know, kind of asking yourself why do I not do the things that I would advise a mentee or, or my child or, or someone that I love to do? Why am I not doing those things? And I think this might be like a little hard for some people to hear is that, I think, if we don’t do those things ourselves, yet we’re giving those people advice, we actually won’t give them the space to do those things in return. If we don’t allow ourselves to do it, if we can’t have that sort of like compassion and lack of judgment for ourselves to take a break when we need it, to say no when we need to, (laughs) when other people do it, we ultimately judge them-

Divya:

Wow.

Libby Smith:

… even if we, even if we’ve given the advice that they can do it, right.

Libby Smith:

If, if we cannot give ourselves that sense of grace and compassion and we’re sitting in judgment of ourselves of like, “I can’t allow myself to take a break. I can’t allow myself to make a mistake. I can’t allow myself to say no to an opportunity,” we’re ultimately going to judge other people for doing those things.

Divya:

So this, so this reminds me of a conversation we had, before this interview, where you were talking to me about people apologizing.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

Could you, could you share that a little bit (laughs)?

Libby Smith:

Oh, gosh, what were we talking about?

Libby Smith:

Yeah. It’s reflexive for a lot of people. I think it … particularly-

Divya:

how true.

Libby Smith:

… reflexive, reflexive for, for women, um, I think reflexive for, for some men as well. It becomes a sort of like throwaway thing even of like, “Oh, sorry, sorry, sor-, you know, sorry I’m late, sorry I’m this.” And, and, really, you know, we, we do a disservice to apologies, ’cause often we’re not terribly apologetic that we’re late to the meeting, right (laughs)?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

As we communicate our sorry to people, we’re communicating to people they should also be sorry when they do it.

Divya:

Right. Yeah.

Libby Smith:

… if I, if I’m like, “Oh, sorry I’m late. Sorry, sorry, [crosstalk 00:31:07] now-”

Divya:

Or sorry that I’m taking up space or sorry that I have a differing opinion or sorry that-

Libby Smith:

Sorry I’m, sorry I’m having these emotions here in this space, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

If you, if you’re saying sorry-

Divya:

That was the context.

Libby Smith:

… you’re, you’re communicating to the other people in that space that, when they have emotions or take up space or have a need that they need to express, that they should also be sorry, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And even if we do that thing, when somebody says, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and we say, “Oh, you don’t have to be sorry. You don’t have to be sorry,” right, we’ll, we’ll still do it.

Divya:

Right. Yep. Okay. So for all the folks who are kind of like me who tend to say sorry like and apologize, think about … leave it at that and think about why we do it and why there is a need to do it-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… and how we are modeling what we want to see, uh.

Libby Smith:

Well, yeah.

Divya:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

And that’s the thing is that so many women, women in particular, have been told that they’re too much, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Your feelings are too much. Your ideas that aren’t part of the mainstream are too much, you know. That’s too much to ask for, the … your, you feel too much, whatever it is.

Divya:

Subversively, if you want to use it as a strategy, then do it intentionally, folks, for any of you listening (laughing).

Libby Smith:

I’m al-, I’m always down for a little subver-, you know, subversive action. Yeah. Yeah.(laughing)

Divya:

But one other thread that I wanted to pull was, you know, noticing when you, you talked a little bit about this, the life that you have, like when that’s being taken away and, and so that’s where you draw your boundaries, you notice. How do we recognize when we’re not able to shine our full light like and be our full selves? Is it the anxiety that we need to be paying attention to or-

Libby Smith:

Yeah. I think sometimes I talk about (laughs) … with, with new clients who come to work with me, um, you know, they find themselves like interested in breathwork, and their life is not like completely like falling apart or anything, but they know they need something. They know that their life isn’t ful- they, fulfilling them in some way. They know they feel some sense of disconnection, whatever it is, and I, I sometimes will warn clients that, as you start the journey of this work, breathwork, of self-discovery, of, you know, really understanding your own identity, um, that you could start to feel worse at first (laughs)-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… as you start, as you start to notice like, maybe the thing, the parts of yourself that you’ve been ignoring, as you start to really, um, choose to confront the parts of yourself that you don’t like, right? In, in some corners, we call that shadow work. So we all have these parts of ourselves that aren’t our favorite.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

It might be a, it might be a physical part of ourselves, but, for a lot of people, it’s a, you know, especially women who’ve been told that they’re too much, it’s their own emotionality that they reject, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

I can speak from that on experience, like five years ago even, 10 years ago, um, I would just prefer to put all my emotions in a box, right, and put it on high up on a shelf. I love talking with people about their emotions, but mine really should just stay on the shelf up in the box on the shelf.

Divya:

(laughs). Yeah.

Libby Smith:

That’s where they belong.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

And so I, I had to confront that, right?

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

I was like, “That’s no way, that’s no way to live (laughs).”

Divya:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

So like learning to feel my own emotions, learning to name my own emotions, learning to sometimes you need to be with, just spend time in that emotion, it turns out the way to deal with that is to actually feel them and move through them (laughs) and not just put them in a box on a shelf, right? So doing this work sometimes can be challenging, but it is our own growth, our own evolution, our own, yeah, kind of journey of self-discovery, might have painful parts to it, but, ideally, it leads us to that place of some sense of peace, some sense, sense of equanimity, some sense of joy really.

Divya:

Right. And, and what I’m hearing from you is to get comfortable experiencing some discomfort, um, and that … I remember you, you telling me one time, you know, that there is an aspect of this where we, we seek numbness, where we, we seek to want to shut down anything, like you said, put our emotions in a box and like keep it up there, so we seek like the distractions that help us just have the superficial joy versus the internal true harmony that we feel within ourselves and then that stops us from recognizing when people are taking away our light and our ability to be our full selves. And so could you share a little bit more about that as well? What I’m hearing you say is that we, we need to be comfortable with a little bit of discomfort-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

We need to allow, to explore our emotions, allow the full humanity of ourselves, like, you know, visit that, not put it all in a box. And then I remember, one time you talking about not, you know, seeking numbness and distractors because that’s our … seems to be our go-to as well, like it’s our defense mechanism, so that we don’t have to be present, so that we don’t have to absorb our reality and who we are.

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

Could you share a little bit more about that?

Libby Smith:

Yeah. And I realize now why I got just a little bit distracted is ’cause I was going right to the hard part of-

Divya:

(laughs).

Libby Smith:

… we’re all distracting ourselves with our work.

Divya:

Wow. Okay.

Libby Smith:

(laughs).

Divya:

I haven’t thought about work like that. Okay.

Libby Smith:

When we’re working evenings and we’re working weekends and we’re, you know, we’re, we’re not spending time doing the things that we love and bring us joy, whether that’s spending time with our family or whatever it is, we’re actually just turning ourselves off to all the other things in our, in our life and, often, that’s, that’s where the good stuff comes from. We do, you know, sometimes we do get good things from our work. Our work, particularly when we’re working in higher ed, working with students, there’s a lot of stuff that’s really rewarding, um, but when we’re, you know, checking emails at 11:00 at night and we’re scrolling Twitter and we’re, you know, picking up another project, that is a way to sort of numb ourselves from actually having to confront maybe what about our life needs to change, uh, what about ourselves we don’t like, right? And if we just pour ourselves into our work, (laughs)-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… we don’t have to worry about those things-

Divya:

Okay.

Libby Smith:

… and we can feel important and justified and produc- … if we’re, you know, if we’re getting our worthiness from our productivity, everything feels okay.

Divya:

Yeah. What, what you’re saying, it’s bringing up like a little bit of religion or faith for me because in Hinduism, Buddhism, you know, we talk about self-actualization, Maslow’s theory, right, like-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep, yep.

Divya:

… uh, but, but … or Native American-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… foundational … like it’s self-actualization, and so, when we think about self-actualization, it’s like, if that’s what we’re seeking or if that’s what life, life’s purpose is about-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… the self-actualization, then all of these things come in the way of that because we don’t know-

Libby Smith:

Right.

Divya:

… how to sit with ourselves. Like I don’t know what makes, gives me joy.

Libby Smith:

Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

I’m just like I’m, I’m, you know, going through Facebook or going through LinkedIn or going through like my work emails or, you know, thinking about something. Like we don’t know how to be silent and how to have-

Libby Smith:

Yes.

Divya:

… have internal joy. Am I, am I making sense?

Libby Smith:

Yeah. No. Uh, 100% and I think, again, our culture over the last, I don’t want to say how many years, but let’s just, let’s just go with 75 years, um, has told that we find that self, self-actualization through our careers, right-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… you know that is how we self-actualize. So young, young people are told, “You have to find your passion. Follow your passion. Find the perfect career. It’s so important which major you choose in college and you got to pick just the right career,” and we take a test to tell us what our right career is, right, but, uh, so we’re always looking outside to figure out what’s going to make us happy. We’re, you know, we’re looking at a list of college majors. We’re looking at results of some assessment. In this culture, we are not taught to look inside, and I will tell you, all the answers are inside. The answers that you find out there-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… (laughs) are not the answers (laughs).

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Right?

Divya:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

And, and it’s not to criticize anybody for the path they’ve taken. I think sometimes that is part of the journey is to, um Sharon Salzberg talks about this, that the real lesson is in the return, right-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… that, you know … so if you think about that in meditation, um, that you sit and you get distracted and, and the medicine is in I can return to not being distracted. And so it’s the same thing, that we get … we’re going to get off path in our lives-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… so whether that was with the wrong career or the wrong partner or the wrong school or the wrong state or (laughs) whatever it is-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… we’re going to get off path sometimes-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… and the wisdom is in the return, so-

Divya:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

… can you bring yourself back to center? And so I think that’s where a lot of people are finding themselves, particularly coming out of COVID, yeah, uh, (laughs) hopefully coming out of COVID, um, (laughs) that-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… uh, they’ve had that chance to slow down just enough to look at their lives and go, “This job doesn’t actually make me happy,” or, for some people, “This relationship doesn’t actually make me happy.” So, I mean, we have seen, you know, I thi- … uh, uh, the media has named it something of like all the people sort of changing jobs in this year.

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Um, but, you know, there is this … people are changing jobs, people have ended relationships, people have moved to other cities, even in the middle of a pandemic, because they slowed down enough to pay attention to their own life and what they wanted.

Divya:

Right. So, so you’ve shared so many, so many things in such a short amount of time, like so many ideas, drawing boundaries, paying attention to our nervous system, paying attention to our emotions, the fact if we are generous and compassionate with ourselves can we be generous, truly generous and compassionate with someone else, all of these things. Um, how would you say the, the somatic practice, breathwork, or any other mindfulness, self-care kind of noticing practice or embodiment practices you call it-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… how would you say that intersects with, with folks who want to engage in social justice or with student success and equity and how do we support our students, as much as we’re talking about educators-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… how do we support our students in, in helping them have a positive education experience, given their journey, I feel, is as traumatic as our journey as educators? Like am I wrong? I don’t know whether I’m wrong in saying that (laughs).

Libby Smith:

No, I think you’re right, but I th- … so, I think when I get, when I get asked this question a lot, particularly around people who feel really overwhelmed by-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… um, all of the injustices in the world that we see from racial justice issues to climate justice issues, whatever it is. We look around, we get really overwhelmed. I think of, um … I’m not … it’s a very pretty long quote from, uh, Grace Lee Boggs, um, that if you, you know, but what I always distill it down to in my mind is that, when you heal yourself, you heal the world, right, and Adrienne Maree Brown talks about this a lot too in, in like Pleasure Activism, it starts with just like we have to like live our own lives in a way that embodies the liberation we want to see. That’s the thing we can do for our students, that’s the thing we can do for our coworkers, our peers, or whoever it is, is start to, you know, live our own lives in accordance with the liberation we want to see.

Libby Smith:

You know, obviously, we’re still in this, we’re still in this system, so it’s not, it’s not this perfect thing, but if we can start this journey of it.

Divya:

Uh, uh, that’s so interesting that you said that particular quote or that phrase, the live, live our liberation because like it speaks to the Gandhian maxim of like be the change you want to see, and I don’t know, when you, when you were saying that-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… like I just felt like you had given me permission in my own mind, so now I have permission within myself to be able to take breaks, to be able to heal-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… to be able to say no, to be able to give ourself that permission will give our students the permission, will ha- … like so it, it just brought it out. Like I took a big sigh as you said it and then, you know, I don’t think our listeners would have heard that, (laughs) but it was just like this sigh, like, uh, a very positive release of breath-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Divya:

… where it was just like, so if I want to see something and I want to benefit my students in a particular way, then I have to first acknowledge that it’s happening to me and that I can also say no because we see so much of transferred oppression, right, in higher ed-

Libby Smith:

Right.

Libby Smith:

Yeah. To tie it back to the social justice piece, though-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… if you’re doing equity work in the world, doing social justice work in the world, I talk to some of my colleagues who do more specific equity work … uh, uh, one thing I want to say, I, I would never position myself as a person, who does specific anti-racism work or equity work or, um, you know, do issues of white supremacy and patriarchy and capitalism and, and that stuff come up in my work? Absolutely, um, but I really see my work as more foundational (laughs), like it is-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… building the core muscles that you need to go into spaces and have those hard conversations about equity, have those hard conversations about racial justice, about whatever social justice work, issue you’re working on, is to have that core strength to show up for those conversations.

Divya:

Right. So, so it’s almost like you’re like the precursor-

Libby Smith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Divya:

… or the, what do you call it, the-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… opener, the concert opener (laughing) because you are preparing-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… preparing, helping … in, in your coaching and in the consulting that you do, you’re helping folks notice and get those tools to notice so that then, when you get into these conversations, you’re like, “Ah, I can notice. I can reflect and I can think about myself and think about my actions and impact and all of that.”

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

So thank you for, for that clarification.

Libby Smith:

This can sound like a lot of work ’cause, you know, taking care of yourself and, and paying attention to yourself but I’m also, in this moment, reminded of like an Adrienne Maree Brown quote, um, I think it’s Pleasure Activism, where she talks about we have to make social justice, we have to make movement work, the most pleasurable work that we do. We have to find joy and pleasure-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… in this stuff. And so much of what I share with people who come to my breathwork circles or workshops that I do are small practices, small changes, (laughs) small things we can do to just be in more noticing-

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

… be in more awareness, um, learning to, again, be in our bodies.

Libby Smith:

We can’t live in burnout. We can’t sacrifice our physical well-being, our emotional and mental well-being, for the sake of the work that we’re doing, right? So we have to make it, we have to find the joy in it too, and that means that we have to make space for rest. It means we have to make space for connection. We have to make space for love. We have to make space for joy, um, and we, um … you know, it can sound, again, like it’s a lot of work to like start noticing yourself, starting to inhabit your own body, but it’s these small changes that we can start to make and-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… kind of set us on that path.

Divya:

Thank you for, for sharing these ways of thinking, ways of thinking about our actions and our behaviors and our ways of being in higher ed and helping our listeners think like how do you want to draw boundaries, what should you be noticing, what things should you be exploring for yourself and how do you want to spend your time? So I really appreciate this conversation. As we started at the beginning of this conversation, you had said we’re looking at individual approaches because, yes, you know, changes starts with the self, um, but we are in a system that is unsustainable, that is causing all of this, all of, a lot of this, right?

Divya:

And so do you have any tips or suggestions for leaders, like, you know, people who are program directors like you or educational leaders in terms of what they can do to help systems change within the institution? Like how can they create a space of self-care… to bring the humanity back? And I know leaders are always nervous because they are like, “Oh, if we, if we do that, then the first conversation we’ll be having is about pay,” right (laughs)? Like pay versus workload, uh, the reality, like, “Oh, we can’t afford,”-

Libby Smith:

But then they should ask them, they should ask themselves why they’re afraid of that conversation.

Divya:

Right. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Libby Smith:

I think the thing that comes to mind and, and I see a few leaders that I work with actually doing this, and it’s, it’s making space for these conversations with the people who work for them, right? And so, obviously, this, you know, is going to look different across different sizes of organizations, but the sort of small to medium-size organizations that I work with, it’s really starting to set aside time as part of the normal business (laughs) process to have these conversations, to encourage people to rest. Um, but, uh, it’s going back to what I said earlier about like leaders modeling this sort of thing for people, and leaders being very honest about the, the thing we started with is that individuals are not going to fix these issues. So if your employees are feeling burnt out, that is not their individual responsibility to fix that (laughs). You have to look at what, how your system, how your structure, is set up that is leading to that, right? And so, you know-

Divya:

That is collective responsibility, yeah.

Libby Smith:

… right, we got to work on it kind of from both ends, as like individuals, yeah, you got to, you know, you want to do what you can to take care of yourselves, but for leaders of or organizations, really looking at what are the burdens of capitalism, the burdens of patriarchy th- that are being put on the people in your organization, the burdens of racism as well, right, so, you know, being starting to get honest about what those are. And that’s, that’s scary work, right? It can be scary work, especially when you’re the leader of an organization because it demands some vulnerability.

Divya:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Brene Brown, yeah (laughs).

Libby Smith:

Brene Brown, Brene Brown has taught us a lot about vulnerability over the years, but, you know, she’s 100% right. And so, you know, the, the best thing I could say to leaders is start doing your own work. Really look at what brings you joy, really look at, are you paying attention to your own burnout, you know, or, or … our leaders are burnt out too (laughs), you know.

Divya:

Yes.

Libby Smith:

It’s not, it’s not just employees.

Divya:

And it’s just another mechanism of transferred oppression, right, like where you like, “Oh, I have to respond to my boss,” and then we unconsciously impose that expectation on our subordinates.

Libby Smith:

Yeah. But particularly for people in, in corporate environments or small to medium organizations, you know, they have a lot of power-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… to make these changes, you know. And I see organizations out there doing this who have absolutely transformative benefit packages for employees, the, the environment that they’re completing.

Libby Smith:

There are some that are doing an exceptional job and, and for … the challenge for those leaders is to stay the course when they start seeing success, right, and to, and, you know … and we can get into a whole conversation about-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… our economy and shareholders and who-

Divya:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

… you know, who are, what, what’s really happening there.

Libby Smith:

Everybody has some power in this, right, and so whether it is starting to set your own personal boundaries, it’s whether it’s asking for something different to even happen in department meetings or whatever it is. You know, I’ve been in some spaces, academic, professional spaces, where we’ve started using like a talking piece just to make sure everyone is heard. Something as simple as that can cause really like transformative change.

Divya:

Right. Thank you. And, and one example that I can also say is like, even in, interviews, right, it’s a two-way, an interview is a two-way process when you’re applying for a job and so I know, when I applied to ExamSoft and, you know, I came into this role-

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

… I, I laid out some expectations that I had to be able to balance personal and professional life and that was respected and actually appreciated and that was one of the reasons why I said, “Yes, I want to-”

Libby Smith:

Yeah.

Divya:

“… I’m going to take this role,” right? And so a lot of people forget like, when you’re moving or coming into a job, that you have the power at that point as well, yes, we need financial security. But the more we’re able to assert our boundaries and normalize that assertion and the more folks see that as normal, the more it will start dispersing into the culture of, of practice, and I, I see that in higher ed as well. Yeah.

Libby Smith:

I want to flip that a little bit, too-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… ’cause, obviously, boundaries are very important, big fan of boundaries, but there’s the piece, too, of like asking for what you need. We’re, we’re very afraid to ask-

Divya:

Wow. Yes.

Libby Smith:

… for what we need, you know, so there is this … and I, I dare say, I think, sometimes we almost don’t know what-

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

… we need (laughs). And that’s where I, I like to have that dichotomy of sort of like, well, there’s boundaries of like I can’t do this and this, you know, um, setting that clear boundary, but at the same time, we have to do the work of really understanding what it is we need-

Divya:

And how would we know that if we don’t notice?

Divya:

Right? Like we … yeah, wow.

Libby Smith:

Yeah, I just, I just had a conversa-, just had a conversation with a colleague that I do somatics with who talked about having to … just recently, and as we talked about it in the context of like shifts and changes we’ve noticed, as a result of COVID, she had gone in and needed to do some facilitation in a space, and then following the facilitation, she took like a full, the next day, had this full day of rest. She was like, “I did not leave my little corner of the house until after dark. Like I just needed that time alone,” and she was like, “I wasn’t like not creative or not doing things. Like I was, you know, I was-”

Divya:

Right.

Libby Smith:

“… but I just needed to be alone for like a full day after that.” And the question she asked was like, “Did I actually need that before COVID and I wasn’t giving it to myself?”

Divya:

Right. Right.

Libby Smith:

And maybe not. I mean, but it’s like, before, you just like pushed ahead, in the pre-COVID times, you just, had another cup of coffee or an energy drink, maybe caught a, you know, couple extra hours of sleep, but you just kept going. And, and now I do see people taking more breaks, giving themselves the space to, uh, recover following something that was energetically a lot.

Divya:

Right. Libby, thank you so much. The conversation was just so impactful and it had my wheels churning and I hope it has our listeners’, you know, wheels churning in terms of, okay, what do I need to do to change my life or continue some good practices. It’s not always about change. It’s how do I, I keep revisiting what I need and keep checking in with myself and taking care of myself so that I can take care of others, right?

Divya:

And, again, I come from a culture where that’s not the practice. It is like you have to be taking care of other people is the expectation as well. I don’t think you and I are talking about it from a Western culture perspective. We’re talking about understanding what our needs are so that we can do, take care of other people or, or do whatever else, function fully. So thank you.

Libby Smith:

I want to say that, one last thing, that that is really important, that this feels very, again, you know, both from … we talked about how, you know, there are these systemic problems and it’s not a thing we’re going to fix as individuals, that, ultimately, this work that we do on ourselves is interpersonal work. It’s so that we can be more present with others, that we can build that sense of interdependence and community and co-creation with the people we’re working with, that we’re not alone in our work. So many people feel so alone, particularly with the pandemic, is that, when you start-

Divya:

Yeah.

Libby Smith:

… spending the time with you, you’re better able to connect with other people and care for them.

Divya:

And I can see so many cultural references as well that are reflective of exactly this kind of thinking, right? So I so appreciate our conversation. So, Libby, any final thoughts that you want to share, and then could you also share, what people can reach out to you about and, and where they could reach out to you?

Libby Smith:

Absolutely.

Divya:

Yes.

Libby Smith:

I guess the one thing that I would want people to walk away from this conversation with is a sense that they should, if they don’t already have, a meditative practice or some practice that helps to bring them into their body, to find some practice that they can start. So, um, that would be the one thing I’d want people to walk away with. If people feel like they want to try breathwork, um, I have a Tuesday night breathwork circle. People can come, uh, breathe with me and we have a small group of people who show up every Tuesday night on Zoom, to breathe and, uh, they can find more, find more information about that on my website. It’s, uh, WorkwithLibby.com.

Libby Smith:

I’m also working with various clients to bring breathwork into organizational spaces as well, so typically doing sort of like workshops that talk about these issues, and do a little bit of sort of, um, like learning around it, but then having some practice together. And I think there’s, there’s a lot of power in doing these practices collectively as well, doing it together, even when it’s a virtual space.

Divya:

So thank you, thank you for sharing yourself, sharing your insights, your knowledge, your expertise and experience, and for my learning through this conversation and, hopefully, our listeners learning as well. I so appreciate you. Thank you.

Libby Smith:

I enjoyed it so much. Thank you for having me, Divya.

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