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Statement from Nkem Ndefo regarding Mark Walsh and The Embodiment Conference

By November 8, 20206 Comments

There has been a lot of conversation about the Embodiment Conference in the trauma healing world. I had initial reservations about presenting until I verified the diversity of the line up and read a fairly decent diversity and inclusion statement. I also asked to speak with Mark Walsh directly and share a few concerns I had heard about past transphobic comments. When we spoke back in the summer, he was humble and shared interest in genuinely learning more about identities other than his own and about systems of oppression. It was a brief conversation and I left it at that. I did a presentation on accessibility and a panel on resilience.

After the conference, Walsh posted a thoroughly mean-spirited rant dripping in contempt for anti oppression and threatening retribution against anyone levying critique now that he has “fuck you” money from the conference’s success (see below). He then posted again laughing off the original post as “semi-serious” coupled with a litany of excuses and blame-shifting.

I refuse to be associated with this man and his conference. I asked that my presentation video be taken down and my name and face removed from the site and all ads. Walsh tried to talk me into staying by saying that I would be deplatforming myself, insinuating that I didn’t have a platform anywhere else. Even if that were true, I will not be anyone’s diversity shield. Let there be natural consequences for his behavior. Walsh complied with my request yesterday. The panel is still up but a statement of my non-involvement is attached.

The movement to heal trauma is by definition a whole body all person movement for liberation and against oppression. The corruption and cooptation for profit by Walsh and his conference is disgusting. I encourage people to reconsider their involvement and support.

– Nkem Ndefo

6 Comments

  • Marie Graw says:

    So, so sad.

  • Astrid Jones says:

    Dear Nkem,
    Thank you for sharing your statement and for the actions you took to distance yourself from Mark Walsh and the Embodiment Conference. As a Black dance movement therapist with personal and professional interest in the field, I supported the conference by listening to quite a few of the speakers, but thankfully did not invest financially. I am also glad to hear that there has been an open letter to de-platform Mark Walsh that is now circulating and gaining support: https://notomarkwalsh.medium.com/we-need-to-de-platform-mark-walsh-and-the-embodiment-conference-59f5addf943
    Unfortunately, the post above is one in a long line of disgusting comments that apparently span several years. I was left literally physically nauseated after reading some of Mark’s past and recent social media posts, particularly those that included terms such as “social justice terrorism”, “neoleft nazi” (in reference to a photo of a Black woman putting her body on the front line for social justice), as well as his sexist, chauvinist language, his description of “tribal” people as “utter bastards”, and his denigration of Islam, among so many other disturbing comments. And all the while, as you pointed out, making excuses for his views, such as “I am human and I have bad days”, and using the language of white fragility to deflect criticism. I hope that more presenters and people involved with the conference do speak out and withdraw their support. I couldn’t agree more with your comments, and hope that there are consequences as a result of Mark Walsh’s appalling and repulsive words and actions.
    Best wishes,
    Astrid Jones
    (Toolkit Practice Group)

  • Alexa says:

    Thanks. I almost signed up for his stuff. I enjoy his emails, but knew nothing of him. After hanging on to one of his emails for over a year, I finally went and checked out what he does (I’m in school for the Expressive Arts and Somatic Movement) as I’m trying to become aware of what’s out there to support my education and be cognizant of my community in this realm of teaching. I saw his website: seemed legit. I backed up to read more on him from the list Google provided, and your post was next. I’m abhorred! I don’t understand…it’s as if his shadow self is screaming to be heard, and has touretts and can’t shut up. How simply odd. His behavior is the ANTITHESIS of what embodied practices teach. Weird. But too bad so sad for him. His fuck you money may be nice, and his lawyers may keep him rich the rest of his life; but I’m not sure he’s doing much to advance his consciousness into the next life and realm. He’ll likely come back as a worm. Thanks for being brave enough to post!

  • Shay K says:

    Thank you for confirming my suspicions about Mark Walsh. I had signed up for introductory video sessions & was creeped out by the first impressions of Walsh: introducing Ilan Stephani as “sexy”, referring inappropriately to her looks, & other subtle things that just felt ‘off’ when discussing trauma. Reading your piece here & Tada Hozumi’s open letter on Medium, I realize my feelings of discomfort were on target. I’m glad I didn’t pay anything to hear more. Walsh’s own words, from the screenshot you post here condemn him.

    It’s tragic that untrustworthy people like Mark Walsh use others in need of healing to boost themselves in this world, it is toxic.

  • Angela says:

    yes. Thank you for your clear stance and this outcome. Please everyone consider carefully before attending or purchasing any ‘trauma sensitive’ courses led by Mark Walsh.

    I attended two free ‘Trauma Sensitive Meditation’ zoom classes last weekend, one delivered by Mark Walsh and the other by a colleague as introductory talks for their next intake of paid-for courses. I asked Mark Walsh over four times during the meeting to discuss trauma hypoarousal symptoms (as well as hyperarousal trauma symptoms) and specifically meditation-induced-dissociation, then I shared evidence based best practice links in the Zoom chat box (links below). Mark Walsh answered by questioning my integrity as a ‘student’ who he interpreted as questioning his authority as teacher and then conducted a guided meditation reflecting on our experiences of ‘smugness’ and ‘superiority’. I asked that if he does not know about meditation-induced-dissociation, (a known symptom of PTSD, CPTSD, DID and liable to retraumatise) then to please signpost to those people who do (cheetahhouse.org a team of Clinical Psychiatrists who support meditators-in-distress). I asked for him to please not undermine the experience of people with serious mental ill-health and disability (which occurred a number of times during the 45 minute session when he described ADHD, Schizophrenia and PTSD), and I referred to Disability Discrimination Law and Advertising Standards regulations.

    In the following call hosted by a colleague the next day, I asked similar questions and was pleased to see that dissociation was explicitly described (though not well understood as a clinical symptom). On further questioning she said that PTSD, CPTSD, DID and psychiatric support are out of their area of expertise but then said this was covered in their paid-for course, which is contradictory. Both Mark Walsh and colleague referred to David Treleaven’s work (without link or naming his book ‘Trauma Sensitive Meditation) however in both talks they provided 4 hyperlinks to their own paid-for courses.

    I made clear that David Treleaven’s book is based on 15+ years work by other pioneering colleagues notably Dr Willoughby Britton of whom they were clearly unaware and seemingly uninterested to find out more. I made clear that it is her published studies that are the foundation of this ‘trauma sensitive’ approach, and these studies also describe meditation-induced psychosis and seizures and asked why these are ignored from Mark Walsh’s training materials or this discussion.

    During the second meeting, I asked similar questions which was followed by a message via Zoom chat program between three co-facilitators (apparently accidentally sent to everyone in the meeting also) saying to ‘disregard what (Ange) is saying, she is probably a stalker’. I challenged this and had a private conversation to establish my identity, my expertise (13 years meditation teacher, and where I shared again the links to best practice). When satisfied, the co-facilitator announced to the group that i was legitimate and that ‘they had trouble with stalkers before’.

    I will add that in the weeks leading up to these events, the organisation heavily promoted ‘Trauma is your Superpower’ course with what I consider disturbing claims and tone which both attracts then excludes people with trauma disabilities. The launch was accompanied by a Facebook message in the group from Mark Walsh saying that anyone who disagrees with their marketing strategy has their own authority issues to sort out separately, that he was an expert in trauma and that his marketing strategy would stay.
    I shared Advertising Standards regulations which are clear on the need of advertisers to provide robust documentary evidence of their ‘claim to cure mental ill-health and disability’. I did this more than three times, then the ‘Trauma is your Superpower’ course was discontinued and instead remodelled to the above two zoom workshops.

    My conclusion is that Mark Walsh’s organisation is interested in profit, establishing it’s own credibility as being ‘trauma informed’ (with a little ‘t’) whilst ignoring the fundamentals of ‘trauma’, (with a big ‘T’), excluding the medical needs of people with trauma disability and potentially retraumatising and exacerbating symptoms.

    Mark Walsh has curated a library of resources however seems unwilling to signpost people in distress to the best professional medical advice (which is free), instead promoting his own offerings which are clearly at the current time sub-standard and dangerous for some people. As Mark Walsh is not at this time signposting meditators-in-distress or those interested to learn more, to the evidence-based resources, here they are ;

    1) Cheetah House – resources for meditators-in-distress and meditation teachers (based on Dr Willoughby Britton and colleagues experience and published studies) http://www.cheetahhouse.org
    2) Window of Tolerance infographic by US National Institute for Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine https://nicabm-stealthseminar.s3.amazonaws.com/Infographics/window-of-tolerance/NICABM-InfoG-window-of-tolerance.jpg
    3) Dr. Britton describes signs of meditation-induced dissociation and how to tell the difference between dissociation and meditative calm https://vimeo.com/463610232
    4) David A. Treleaven Learn Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness https://davidtreleaven.com/
    5) my website, summaries of clinically observed published studies of adverse effects of meditation, mindfulness, breathwork and theories which explain both reported health adverse effects and reported health benefits, http://www.meditatenotdissociate.com

  • Angela says:

    As the Embodiment Conference library will be made available for free from 10 Dec to 14 Dec (according to the Facebook page) then now might be a good time to reconsider all the above

    The link to the above open letter is no longer valid, https://notomarkwalsh.medium.com/we-need-to-de-platform-mark-walsh-and-the-embodiment-conference-59f5addf943

    …however there is a group on the Medium website here, https://notomarkwalsh.medium.com/about

    This is a similar request as here to deplatform Mark Walsh and divest from previous involvement with the Emdodiment Conference, https://www.parconhub.com/archives/2020/11/10/a-support-letter-to-de-platform-from-mark-walsh-and-the-embodiment-conference

    …this contains a link to this petition https://docs.google.com/document/d/14NKoofW8ZwoU0Bz7leH6XDSytSgQCr4fLy6t6tiy8BI/edit

    …and the petition contains a link to this disinvestment pledge (which appears to have expired), https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfvLUFpMbzfuB6O7v87MIIPwPFWiH1Vhw77pPTvoD8zey79Dw/formResponse

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