Milla Gregor is the facilitator and mastermind behind our brand new Strengthening the Core programme. This 8 week programme is designed to support arts fundraisers through the unique pressures and stresses of their roles and help to combat the burnout you might be facing – especially after the last year!
Here, Milla shares a bit about her personal journey to her practice, and explains how these eight weeks can support you.
Back in the ‘oughts' I was working in charities, first in Fair Trade internationally and then back in London, in financial inclusion projects. It was fast moving work with high pressure targets and we were all working flat out with limited resources. Staff turnover was incredibly high as intermittent government contracts took their toll on people’s finances and morale. I found myself working increasingly long hours to stave off a feeling of being slightly out of control, and not in a good way.
I noticed people around me getting worn out, stressed, and into strange conflicts. I found myself feeling flat and disengaged more often than not, despite still deeply caring about the work. It felt so confusing – here I was doing this values-led work with these wonderful people, but somehow we were all either exhausted or miserable. Eventually, and luckily still with enough energy (just) to take a step back from the day to day, I came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way.
I embarked on a fairly classic phase of ‘seeking’ - looking around for things that might help. I went to Quaker meetings, Buddhist meditation sessions, and some short retreats. I did more movement, including yoga. I studied economics. I went for some counselling, and then for some really good counselling. I cast the net wide.
In a class on Buddhist principles one evening the teacher rattled off a list of things people get addicted to – alcohol, drugs, ok, I thought. Food, risk taking, yeah yeah – and then, ‘work’. I was floored. Could the part of my life I was treating as medicine be what was ailing me? Was there an understandable shadow driving this hamster wheel?
Later that year I started volunteering as a non-violence facilitator, and in the process discovered some things about anger and conflict that were similarly pivotal. Could some of these patterns be transformed, for me and others?
Slowly I was able to find my way back to healthier working patterns, helped in part by (more luck) a great manager, and deepening movement and contemplation practices. It began to dawn on me that the tools I had discovered might be useful to others, too.
Movement for Change is my attempt to share the pieces of the puzzle that were most helpful to me – embodied yoga, non-violence (what I now call constructive conflict communication, or how to have a good fight!) and self-care. People often ask me about the embodied part. It’s important for two reasons.
For one, I believe we are integrated, as people – body, mind and emotions. They are not meaningfully separable, despite our culture’s emphasis on ‘mind over matter’, and language-based cognition over other forms of knowing (sorry, Descartes!). If we take seriously the notion that our whole selves are embodied, integrated selves, then any reflection or transformative work will include our bodily life. Not to mention the incredible reserves of insight, expression and wisdom that are always there, and can be accessed by most people, given a little permission (or training).
Secondly, working in an embodied way can be powerfully restorative. Sometimes exhausted or overwhelmed people just need some rest, particularly ahead of any deeper work.
Strengthening the Core is Movement for Change’s flagship eight week programme. Over eight 2&¼ hour sessions we will move, reflect, share insights and questions, and grow. Each session starts with a little under an hour of embodied yoga, followed by a break, then a little over an hour of presentation, personal reflection and small group discussion.
Through these eight weeks you’ll have a chance to consider the challenges of working life through personal, interpersonal and systemic lenses, while gaining practical tools that can be put to work immediately. There’ll be ‘practice experiments’ for you to try in between every session (not homework as such – more like ‘do something that recharges your batteries, and do it a little more than usual’), as well as plenty of opportunities to check in and share your reflections.
At the end of the most recent (and seventh) programme I asked participants how they might explain Strengthening the Core to someone considering signing up. They said it’s:
“Life changing - I have already told my friends that I am on the best course I think I have ever been on and how lucky I am - helping me manage with leadership.”
“Enjoyable and empowering.”
“If you feel the demands of your work, if you want to feel better than you do now, not just for eight weeks, but in the long-term, then I can't think of a better use of your time than this course.”
“Sometimes it takes doing something slightly out of your comfort zone to realise it's exactly what you need and helps you not just realign your focus but find comfort in the fact that you have people going through the motions with you too.”
“In weeks when I felt there was no time - this was by far the best use of my time.”