Embracing Authenticity and Play with Pavini Moray · ShiftWorkPlace

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Ep112 Embracing Authenticity and Play with Pavini Moray


The Somatic Leadership Journey

Bio for Pavini Moray

Pavini Moray has started, failed, and succeeded in many businesses. A serial entrepreneur, they have built private practices, a worker collective, and a for-profit company. Pavini is a somatic leadership coach, specializing in helping relationships be easy. Moray holds an M.Ed in Montessori curriculum design, as well as a Ph.D. in Somatic Psychology.

Their new book, “How to Hold Power: A Somatic Approach to Becoming a Leader People Love and Respect,” helps leaders in all areas of business inhabit their power and lead with skill and grace.

Episode highlight

In this episode, Pavini Moray delves into their experiences of cultural disconnect, sharing personal stories of growing up in the Midwest and how counterculture and punk music provided a sense of belonging and freedom. They discuss the importance of somatic approaches in leadership and personal growth. If you are interested in somatic leadership, this is your opportunity to learn from Pavini.



  • “There’s this cultural belief that you have to love yourself before you can love others. Right? But I actually don’t believe that. I think it’s actually pretty problematic because it’s very difficult to give to yourself something that you haven’t been given.” 
  • “Humor gives us a witness. It gives us a little bit of perspective where we’re not so caught up in our stuff.”


Childhood Incidents: 

Having a wealth disparity between two parents can be unsettling for a child. As a child, Pavini’s mum decided that Pavini should have a cultural education of the arts. Due to limited resources, cultural education was an extravagance and luxury she had to save for and prioritize. Pavini’s dad had season tickets and a box at the opera. One night, Pavini’s mum took her to the opera, where they discovered the dad sitting in his own private box in the theatre. It was Pavini’s first awareness of wealth disparity.

In January 1986, Pavini’s friends invited them to a punk party. It was winter, Pavini was underdressed for the weather and showed up to a party that was in a condemned building where walls were falling off. Even so, the heat generated by the dancing was intense. While there, Pavini felt the difference between the world they lived in and the current world they were experiencing at that moment. The experience set Pavini on a journey to find a way to belong.

Cultural Influences

Pavini chose to lead a life with pleasure, embodiment, and communication. Growing up, these values were not with the people surrounding Pavini. Today, they are determined to experience the full complex range of sensations and emotions that we all have as human beings. Pavini makes it their mission to communicate with transparency and kindness in service of that goal.

Leadership Influence

In 2008, Pavini attended an activist camp out of curiosity. At the time Pavini was a classroom teacher raising children in a suburban town. The leadership model of the camp organizers was based on power transparency and power sharing, which Pavini found impressive. This 10 year experience shaped how leadership should be. To date, Pavini cannot stand being in a poorly organized meeting. Additionally, emerging from a youth oriented organizational culture, Pavini now appreciates the value of elder leadership which increases the capacity of an entire community.

Temperaments and Personality

Pavini believes they came into this world as a dancer with a sense of awe, magic and connection to nature and spirit. Curiosity is also part of Pavini’s temperament. As a child, Pavini could not do what other people wanted, and in trying to reconcile their own nature with the constraints around them, developed a sense of pragmatism.

Being playful is one of the things that Pavini has added to their personality. They describe this as being reverently irreverent and irreverently reverent, which is a way for them to connect with spirit.

Cultural Epiphanies

Pavini lived in Bulgaria back in the 90s, and not having experienced the environment of communism, found the Bulgarians’ sense of powerlessness and hopelessness shocking. Pavini recalls a time they went to the mayor asking for transportation for books that had traveled 10,000 miles around the world, and now only needed a truck for the remaining 200 miles. The mayor said it was impossible, but Pavini was able to show him how doable it was. 

When Pavini was working with a worker collective, they worked with multiracial people and were challenged with the concept of being on time. Pavini found they were always upset by how their meetings started late. One of the people in the collective told Pavini that time intolerance was white supremacy causing them to reconsider their original assumption around punctuality. 

Soapbox Moment

Pavini encourages us to be attuned. They recognize how vulnerable it can be when we open ourselves to attune with someone else’s needs, feelings, desires, fears, grieves. Pavini gave an example of how attuned dolphins are and how we  beautiful it was to watch the outcome of their attunement.

What Brings out the Best in Pavini

Pavini enjoys working in environments where they can laugh and be playful. Clients who can be in a moment of deep grief and a moment later be having a gentle chuckle about that are among the people who Pavini enjoys working with.


Pavini Moray has experienced many disconnects in life, yet stayed grounded to the experience of nature, playfulness, and increasingly transparent authenticity. Defining culture first in terms of what they did not identify with, Pavini came to a sense of belonging when others saw them in complexity and could be sincerely welcoming. They grew into a more personalized leadership approach through their varied experiences of teaching, activism, worker collectives, and eventually achieving a PhD in Somatic psychology. I really enjoyed Pavini’s reflective gentleness. The childhood descriptions of being in the budget section of the opera house with their mother while looking up at the wealth of their father’s personal opera box, sharply contrasted with the out-of-body experience of a punk concert in a condemned building were deeply evocative for me. Here are a few of my takeaways from this conversation with Pavini:

  1. Belonging is complex and requires that we mirror love and acceptance to each other.
  2. Having an embodied experience brings us to a more authentic sense of who we are and could become.
  3. Power dynamics are always at play and unless we can consciously attune to the other person’s experience and validate them through our acknowledgment, we may never see the true picture.

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