Being with a Group

First published on

I am a musician – which means I have many jobs.

One of these, one of my favourites is playing market music on the mandolin.

I play specifically New Zealand Farmers Market music – Celtic melodies with a few Polkas and familiar contemporary melodies on a warm bed of traditional backing tracks alternating with throbbing reggae / dub basslines as the day progresses.

This article is about the Zenergy concept of the three states of a Facilitators ‘being’ – ‘being with self’, ‘being with another’ and ‘being with the group’.

You can read the blog below, watch it over on youtube – or listen to it on soundcloud.

The tunes I play are ubiquitous yet reinvented / reharmonised and rearranged so most people recognise them and feel a sense of familiarity with them, yet often can’t place them, or me, or the instrument I am playing. I’m a fairly ordinary curly haired Celtic looking Pakeha, in colourful handmade clothing. My instrument has an unusual shape for a mandolin and looks like an Ovation Elite guitar ( which may not mean much to most readers ) . Mandolins have double strings, and many people ask me if it is Greek or Russian or Eastern European and where am I from?

Somehow I am both ‘other’ and ‘family’ at the same time.

Farmers Markets are a thronging spring of life. Multi-cultural, diverse in taste, and offerings. Ethnicity, age, sex and style of any given market is governed by location, and tourism.

When I am in my role, performing as a market musician, it is possible for me to sense the energy of the whole group. And rather than being a ‘main focus’ I am offering a service.

The ‘stars’ of the Farmers Markets are the products of stall holders, and workers, the makers who create items for sale. Usually unique, tasty, original and healthy food items, or magnificent craftwork that cannot be found anywhere else.

The market manager, the crew, the rubbish pickerupperers and me, we are serving the stall holders. Our work is appreciated but we are not the main act.

As a musician, playing amplified, this distinction can take some getting used to!

Through our Zenergy training we learn to be responsive and observant of ‘group energy’. Part of our training is to distinguish between ‘being with self’, ‘being with another’ and ‘being with the group’.

We also learn to ‘generate’ what is missing. In my role as a market musician I rely heavily on this skill.

When I start to play at the beginning of the day ( this morning I was set up and ready to go at 9am ), my focus is entirely on ‘being with self’. I listen to the PA, how does it sound? How does the sound feel? Is it sharp and hard or soft and gentle? If it is demanding attention then it is too loud or has too much treble. If I don’t adjust and turn down I will either be asked to, or not asked back.

I concentrate on the sound with my entire body. The sound of the space. The feeling of the sound of the space. I purposefully don’t look at anyone, I may not even face the front of the stage, I may face the speakers, or to the side.

I organise myself emotionally to be of service.

I believe it is my role as a market musician to smile at every face that appears in front of mine.

Once I turn to face whoever is there, and I begin to play, I will be ready to open my heart to who ever I see.

According to my Zenergy training this is called ‘being with another’. We learn that we have a unique relationship with each group member, and I practise this as I smile, while playing the mandolin at market.

Children, elderly, wisened, coupled, solo, interested, annoyed, curious, mildly offended, reserved, camera focused, polite, impolite, generous, greedy, Maori, Pacifica, Pakeha, Asian, dressed up and dressed down : each one a somebody and for each one a smile.

This, is a deep yoga practice.

And at the same time as all this connecting I am describing, I must keep the sound of the tune I am playing rolling through the back of my brain. I must keep giving my fingers permission to move in response to the sound of tune as it ( still ) plays against the very back wall of my skull. I can see this aural image and I can connect it by my will to my hands.

If I start to waiver in my playing I close my eyes to refocus – but the smile stays. The smile, by this point, is smiling itself through me.

In a deep trance I clearly see the group energy of the market place. I sense the ebb and flow, the bustle, the excitement and expectancy in the early part of the day gives way to weariness and fatigue in the latter.

I adjust my tunes accordingly, traditional in the beginning; fresh simple melodies with clear moving backing tracks. As the session progresses, in set 3 say, I shift to reggae / dub bass-lines to generate more relaxation in the group by offering more repetition. When I make this transition I check in, I make eye contact, with the elderly people, to make sure they are ready to leave the bonnie banks of yesteryear.

If things become stagnant I can generate more energy with a polka or a jig. In moments of brutal busyness I might let go fully into this energy with a set of urgent reels and allow intensity to dominate.

As a musician I have many aural tools to generate atmospheres.

I have these same skills as a facilitator, as a friend, community member and in my family. Opening oneself to the aural realm allows an undeniable sensory depth.

Keep these questions as reflections to open your senses to the aural dimension.

  • What sounds can you hear right now?
  • Can you hear the thoughts of others?
  • Can you hear the thoughts of the natural world around you?
  • Can you hear the reflections of sound on the walls and hard surfaces around you?
  • Can you picture you’re the sounds of your life as a stream of sensation on the hard surface of your skull?
  • Where else is sound living in you?
  • Can you feel sound on your skin? In your heart? In your minds eye?

Remember: Questions have the most power in the space between the asking and the answer.

Thank you for reading this article!

I’d love to hear from you, please make a comments or contact me on

My music homepage with links to the sounds I make is

If you’d like to go straight to somewhere you can listen to what I refer to here as ‘market music – here is some audio and here is a cute video with a knee high mosh pit.

Nga mihi
Kāren Hunter

One thought on “Being with a Group

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.