What is keeping us from knowing ourselves?
Prentis Hemphill on meeting emotions with curiosity
If you listen to one interview I have done, please make it this one. This week, I got the chance to meet with Prentis Hemphill, a somatics teacher, practitioner, and writer. They use healing as a tool to reshape the world to be a more just place, with the goal of ending violence and harm. They are also the host of the podcast Finding Our Way and the founder and director of The Embodiment Institute and The Black Embodiment Initiative.
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What is your opinion about growth? I feel like there is a lot of talk about cultivating a growth mindset, growing into something beautiful, and using the term growth as a silver lining to hardship. “At least you grew up stronger…” Making things that are painful somehow worth it. I would say that most people are pro-growth. And I am too. I think where I am hung up is the part where growth takes us out of the present moment as being enough. It moves our state of being into the past or future, implying that what is is not enough.
And that can be a good thing. Maybe. Prentis talks about growth in a new way for me. They distinguish two forms that are I think really important ways to look at the concept of growth. One looks at the term growth as in profit margins, a never-ending cycle of getting bigger, doing more, and pushing further. In this version of growth, we are not allowed to stop and rest. There is constant pressure to be something. I feel that. I have talked myself into this mindset with my business.
The story I tell myself is that we have to grow, to be able to pay people more, that in order to keep going we have to excel at a rate that is higher than ever, anything else being a flat failure. Not in the sense that, “We can learn from this failure. We are all just human beings, failure. We tried, failure.” I am talking about the type of failure of embarrassment, riddled with shame. That everything that we worked for meant nothing. And ultimately I know it is true, we will be forgotten. Yet, I don’t know why I am holding on so tight.
Growth in the second sense reflects a plant cycle. Or seasons. It allows for rest and reflection, accepting change, and making space for transformation. In this version, there is no real fear of ending. It is a natural part of the process. It lets us let go of our need for comfort and control. Paradoxically, there is a relief that we are one that comes from many and will return to many when our life ends.
Prentis is a poet. I know they say they are a writer. Or I want to use the word poet. Perhaps Prophet is a better word. When Prentis speaks, they communicate an ease or feeling that things will be ok. That we can endure while still knowing that life is full of pain and unknowns. That it is possible to “dwell in awe and wonder,” and still keep your purpose in life.
This interview is short. There is so much more on their podcast. Prentis talks about the politicalized nature of healing, how transformation happens through relationships, excellence vs perfection, giving back more than we take (to cultivate abundance), boundaries, vulnerability, finding our own power and so very much more.
DONATE here to The Embodiment Institute, after hearing Prentis, I had to.
This whole conversation starts with what Prentis means when they call themselves a “cartographer of emotions.” Listen to it. It will change the way you think about connection and belonging and feeling safe in your own skin.
LAST CHANCE book giveaway:
This week, we are doing a book giveaway, comment here if you would like a copy of “You Are Your Best Thing,” edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown featuring Prentis’ writing.
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