By kate, March 04th, 2013
“I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Today, many things indicate that we are going thorough a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble.”
– Vaclav Havel
A barefoot facilitator is to a professional facilitator
what a paramedic is to a doctor:
A person with a basic and versatile tool kit and enough savvy to skillfully support what is needed 80% of the time, and for a fraction of the cost.
I resonate with Havel’s statement above: we are going through a massive transitional period. This “Great Turning” is calling for collective intelligence, collective wisdom and collective capacity as never before. We are being asked to revolutionize how we work together.
To help things go better, I’m inspired by the “barefoot doctors’ of Mao’s China. In the mid-60s, there was little access to medical care in rural areas, and not enough resources to supply fully trained doctors. Instead, 30,000 villagers were trained in basic Western and Chinese medicine — enough to treat common ailments, and to share information about hygiene, family planning, and prevention of epidemics.
They were called “barefoot doctors” because when they weren’t tending to basic medical needs, these people continued to farm barefoot in the rice paddies along side their neighbours. Almost overnight, this important innovation revolutionized health outcomes in rural China.
By analogy, we do not have resources or capacity to supply professional facilitators to all the meetings and group endeavours supporting the great shifts underway. There are, however, thousands of people in all walks of life already up-skilling their ability to facilitate deep and lasting change in the human systems of which they are a part.
Perhaps you already know that you are a “barefoot facilitator”. Perhaps you welcome the invitation to so serve. Either way, I hope you step up and offer your skills and awareness in the groups you are part of, and I hope you find ways to keep deepening your capacity to understand group dynamics.
If you are interested in co-creating a movement to revolutionize how we work together, including spreading the idea of “barefoot facilitation”, I’d love to hear from you.
By kate, November 15th, 2012
If you have a pattern or block you’d like to transform, consider creating a ritual. Distilling the change you want to make into a rite of passage supports shifts in non-linear and almost instantaneous ways.
Years ago I was in a workshop with the great Jean Houston. The culmination of three days was an invitation to cross a threshold between who I had been and who I might become. We could do this by stepping over a line marked out on the floor by a string of tealights — a ritual of conscious and transformative change.
Who knew that such a simple exercise could be so powerful.
As I come up to the line, all my fears and resistance concentrate in my chest and throat. I stand at the “edge”, gathering myself. I have the distinct experience of energy moving, as though whole complexes and patterns are coming to the surface and breaking up in the face of my intention to transform. With time I feel a readiness — a clarity that I can and should step over the line — and a quiet shift within that I know is a quantum increase in self-authority and self-acceptance. I step over, and instantly there is more space, and more vulnerability. I don’t yet have sea legs in this new ocean of possibility. In a short time though, I stabilize. I am excited. I’ve passed over into a new world.
If you are dogged by a pattern you’d love to shift, I recommend creating a ritual of transformative change for yourself.
Here are the basic elements:
- Name what you want to transform and listen for the new that is seeking to emerge.
- Create a container for yourself — pick a time and place that has meaning, and ask people from your inner circle to join you in the process, or to bear witness. Decide the format — what will represent your threshold?
- Prepare yourself. Before a rite of passage there is an energetic need for a “vigil” — a time of reflection and cleansing that supports one to be ready for transformation.
- Humbly honour your truth at the heart of the ritual: do you commit to what is emerging or not? Only cross over your symbolic threshold if you are truly letting go of the old and embracing the new. This is not a mental shift, but one that happens at the level of deep inner knowing.
- If you cross over, celebrate! There is a reason that marriages and funeral always include food. The “nodal” points where we take a different path need to be marked, and celebrating with food is in our DNA.
You can also honour this basic five step architechture any time you do something new or big, since the newness/bigness involves “stepping over a line”.
I recently facilitated a three day board retreat for a large multi-stakeholder group. In the days before, I allowed myself more quiet time, knowing I was deepening and gathering myself as preparation to hold space for a dynamic group process. Afterwards, I celebrated (a part of the cycle too many of us neglect too often!!).
Creating rituals, and seeing more of what we do through the lens of ritual, are two ways to support transformative change.
By kate, September 20th, 2012
Perhaps you can relate: after the joy and elation when my new book was “done,” I felt lost. My usual clarity about priorities and next steps had vanished.
I felt pressure to be productive — to tackle the next items on my “to do” list. But the times I tried to do a priority task, I felt either like I was spinning my wheels or slogging through molasses.
Then I got it: I’m in transition. Like a caterpillar, I’m morphing from one phase to another — from introverted author to being out in the world. And like a caterpillar, the process needs space and time away from the world of doing and busyness, in the container of a crysalis.
In the midst of the lostness, it felt like forever. I poked and prodded myself, wondering if I was stuck or avoiding something. But there was no point pushing. It just mucked things up. At my wisest, I did simple tasks like updating my mailing list — a modern day equivalent of sorting wheat from chaff.
Some time later, the lostness lifted, effortlessly, like mist dispersing.
Are you (or is someone you love) in transition? Perhaps an outer shift, from one job to another, or an inner shift from one role or phase of life to the next.
If you are like me (and most), you resist dissolving. It’s not comfortable to be so vulnerable. One is also out of step with the tsunami of pressures from the outside: mainstream society expects us to be like machines — producting units of output in a constant stream and at a uniform pace.
It’s important to honour our times of transition. They take us to new and better places in non-linear leaps.
Here’s what I say to myself and others: ”Have patience. Trust the process. It’s great that you are transforming.”
P.S. You can work this one the other way too: give yourself the gift of “crysalis time” by opening up a space in your calendar. There is likely a back log of transitions waiting for a break in the action.
By kate, March 07th, 2012
If we want to be grounded and calm in a crisis, we need to cultivate this capacity, the way a person wanting to climb Mount Everest needs to build up physical and mental stamina.
For years I have used the simple breathing exercise below as part a daily practice of setting my energy and intentions for the day. I also do the practice whenever I feel out of balance or off-centre. I encourage you to try it.
When you experience the immediate benefits — how your energy centres and settles — you might be inspired to take a few moments for this way of breathing before a big phone call, or meeting, or task.
The more you are able to integrate this centring practice into your daily life, the more it will be available to you in a time of crisis. You will have self soothed with figure of eight breathing (or a similar mindfulness practice) for so many smaller storms that it will be your automatic response to bigger ones.
Let me know how you find it.
Figure of Eight Breathing
- Optional: take off eyeglasses, any heavy jewellery, and footwear made of rubber or plastic.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, eyes closed, and your attention on your breath. Sitting or lying down works too, but standing is the easiest way to start.
- Inhaling slowly, bring your awareness to your heart.
- Exhaling slowly, imagine your breath is traveling down the front of your body and penetrating to the centre of the Earth.
- Inhaling slowly, imagine you are drawing energy up from the centre of the Earth and up the back of your body, and into your heart.
- Exhaling slowly, imagine that your breath is going from your heart up the front of your body as high as it can go – to Ether, the stars, heaven – whatever works for you.
- Inhaling slowly, imagine you are drawing energy down from above, down the back of your body and into your heart.
- Repeat this “figure of eight” as long as feels right – perhaps 5-20 cycles at the beg
inning. When you are familiar with this practice, four or five cycles is enough to feel quite grounded.
To start, I suggest tracing the figure of eight shape with one hand, as a way to help your awareness move.