I have the honour, joy and privilege of working with teens and adults in discovering the power of the spoken word art form.
Here's a taste of what we do together-
Spoken Word Workshops
In a style, format and length adjusted to fit the requirements of the group, together we incorporate a combination of lively games, short video screenings, body movement, breath awareness, discussion around pertinent social justice issues, and of course, writing and performance of our own spoken word poetry. Following a guided process, we use tools, tips, techniques and examples of finished pieces to unearth the buried words (worlds) that are itching to come out. We inspire and invigorate mind, body and spirit along a holistic journey. We compose and share our original creations from a place of built connection and trust inside a strong container.
The workshop is a synthesis my experience in the worlds of creative writing, yoga teaching, social justice activism, leadership training and the healing and performance arts in a journey designed to lead participants in a dive deep into the inner experience. I am pleased to offer workshops tailored to the needs of high school and college classrooms, yoga studios, activist gatherings, religious centres, business conferences, programs for at-risk youth, wellness retreats, and more. The suggested minimum length for this odyssey is three hour- long workshops over the course of three consecutive days, with space in between for solo time to rest and digest.
Each individual has a road behind them and an accompanying story to tell about what came up along the way. Parts of this story we are happy to talk about and share. Parts of the story can be difficult to think about, express or address in any way, shape or form. Stuffed down or concealed parts of our story can take root in forms ranging from tired behavioural patterns, bodily tension and stagnation, overdrive of the fight or flight response, low self- esteem, strained inter-personal relations or a host of other symptoms if left unaddressed.
The resistance between that which we’ve insisted on keeping buried inside and it’s wanting to be seen, can leak our vital life energy in a way we might not even notice, like a background noise. Rather than deny, suppress or run away from aspects of our experience, we can choose to tune into our story, write it out from a breath-filled place with our unique artistic twist and tell it in a safe container to listening ears as we see fit. IF and WHEN the time is right to get into a certain part of our story, spoken word is a craft that can be honed and developed, not so as to deepen, negate or wallow in our wounds, but to ennoble them in a healthy setting. We speak our poetry as the last step in a journey of bearing witness to ourselves by tuning in, discovering and being with the energy that would like to move, penning it and vocalizing it. (Of course we can also use the same method to not only tap our shadow, but our joys, love, humour and light as well.)
What is gained in the process?
With time, I have come to realise the power and necessity of not only writing, but speaking our stories, aloud, to listening ears. In moving through this process, we;
Reclaim the power that lies inherent in our story
While we may have faced unspeakable abuse or trauma, discrimination, injustice and/or loss, the spoken word medium affords us the capacity to take direct action through (re)claiming and (re)defining one’s own personal or cultural narrative rather than allowing it to be dictated by any outside force or circumstance. Choosing to tell our story and the way we wish to tell it, can have the effect of loosening trauma and reassembling our broken pieces into something all the more beautiful because of the initial shattering and not despite, like a mosaic or a stained glass window. While the circumstance we write about may or may not change or “get fixed” as we perceive “fixed” to be, before even putting pen to paper, in the simple act of facing inward, we have already reclaimed power, aired out the inner space with breath, perhaps drawn important links or gleaned insight and deepened our relationship with ourselves.
Dissipate charged emotion
As we seize the opportunity to speak one’s ‘secrets,’ one’s shadow, the weight, one’s conflict, one’s triumph, the naked truth hiding in there, the energy that wants to move, the yet unvoiced- whatever you may wish to call it… we discharge the tension that builds up when we hold these things with a kung fu grip. As our excess weight is carried out on the breeze of poetry, and met with listening ears in intentional space, healing and release can arise naturally, sometimes without the necessity for further intervention. In this way, spoken word poetry can create a certain calming of an inner storm, and in some cases, even full closure.
Develop our “vulnerabravery” and affirm our experience
When we give that which is already there the right to exist and be seen, we essentially give ourselves the right to exist and be seen. This is major in building a healthy self- respect. While we needn’t expose all things to all people, at all times, when we choose how and what to share and do so with authenticity, we find a brave warrior spirit inside, willing to risk “face”. The more we build the confidence to present this brave spirit, the more we connect to it, the more we develop a relationship with ourselves based somewhere beyond the reach of the opinions of others. That said, our audience is often far more supportive than we feared. Usually, our own worst critic lies under our own skin. In attempts to pre-empt what others will think, our inner judge can be ruthless. The inner critic softens as we build true confidence and comfort with who we are and what we have to say. In taking action to affirm that what we bring to the table is valid, important, real and “worthy,” we claim our space and true voice.
Practise self- care
Frequently, the same individuals sweeping their own needs under the rug, without the time or space necessary to take measures of self- care are the ones on a mission to create positive social change out there. A difficult home or work life can add to the pressure to put one’s own needs aside. These scenarios unfortunately and ironically too often results in preventable burnout, addiction or stress-related illness in the people working hard to maintain the health of their environment, society and the planet, and in those who desperately require some down time. This vital piece of info was missing from my own early activist experience, and developing spoken word as a practise (alongside other creative and healing arts) have allowed me to take the time and space necessary to care for the garden of my own being in enjoyment. Spoken word can accomplish both doing and being; inner work/self- care can combine with inspiring social change to form a balanced means of engaging self and society.
When we share our stories, usually we discover more points of commonality with each other than we may have originally foreseen. In younger classroom settings, we introduce the concept of social justice and explore it with readings, discussion and/or by watching spoken word pieces, often offered by members of various marginalised groups of society, in order to build awareness of broader issues that can go unseen. In this way, we set the stage for deeper listening, writing and sharing, and to develop important questions that students can carry beyond the classroom walls. As we develop our ear, our curiosity, our expressivity and a de-mystification of “other,” (or cease to “other” to begin with,) bridges are built within the compassion that naturally arises when we meet face to face. As we actively observe how the struggles that we encounter are more similar than they are different, and how everyone is working with their own unique set of challenges and gifts, our individual stories rise to meet others to unite in solidarity and inclusivity while lightening the load on the individual.
Develop a new appreciation for the written word
The pen is so very mighty. Sticks and stones can break our bones- more often than not, those bones heal. But words can uncage, uplift, heal, scar, shape, haunt or empower a person for a lifetime. It's our privilege to use words wisely. In spoken word, we have tools, not rules so that words may be at liberty to run around uncaged and embody their potential in a whole new way. Suddenly, all the guidelines we have been accustomed to obeying most of our lives fall away, giving way to possibility and fresh inspiration. As we go about wielding the potency of poetry, metaphor, phrasing, cadence and nuance, we begin to harness a deeper awe and appreciation for the raw power inherent ina force mightier than the sword.
It can be very difficult to heal and move forward when we do not take the time to feel the emotion involved in our stories. In these instances we tend toward spiritual bypassing (i.e.- the “everything is alright and I’m fine” syndrome) which is too often combined with addiction, distraction, repetition of destructive patterns or sudden reactionary outbursts perhaps disproportionate to the circumstance at hand. Telling a story, from where we stand, with our own limited viewpoint, with all it’s holes and misconceptions helps us to make sense of our surroundings which is fair, healthy and even crucial. Sometimes our story simply wants to be offered to the light of day. Sometimes we need to tell it, in part, so that it can begin to shift and transmute and perhaps one day, fade altogether.
We talk a lot about “dropping the story” in spiritual circles. It’s a valuable concept, and yet it can easily result in suppression, and compounding of trauma. Stories carry within them the seeds of transformation. The hero’s tale, a story told in many forms and amongst many cultures across time, comes part in parcel with faith, hope, potential, strength and points to our ability to make lemonade, move beyond our own self-limiting beliefs and come home to ourselves. I appreciate the intention of ’story- dropping,’ and while a certain amount of ‘witness perspective' is useful, (and while we don’t want to get swallowed by our stories,) I’m all about giving our stories wings to rise and fly.
Package Price List:
Per classroom. (Packages cannot be divided among different groups of students. The same individuals must be present for each session.)
Use Your Words- Poetry Activation Workshop- February 19, 2017
Oopsmark Studio, Montreal Register!
High School Workshop Series Tour February 2017 Montreal
"I did not anticipate the impact of the spoken word workshop. With love, wisdom, humor, boundless creativity, and with the help of highly evocative excercises, Lisa deftly helped our group experience the power of spoken word and unlock doors to our own self- expression. In the three- hour session, I felt time speed up and also had the experience of timelessness. It felt like a privilege to have participated in that journey. I am happy for all those students, seekers, artists, change- makers who get to work with Lisa, an inspired artist and a deeply inspiring educator."
-Michael Gagne, Pendle Hill Faculty Member, Philadelphia