Over the years I have attended meetings, events and retreats, as a participant, and sat there, with my facilitators hat on, ticking off, on my little list of things, what is missing or being poorly done, and what is working really well and what I could add to my repertoire. I have found this both useful, for my own learning, and frustrating. It has been frustrating because time is so precious these days, that when things are not done well or the really obvious is missed it irritates the hell out of me. And it is often a thought like this “what right do I have to say this, I am not the facilitator.” that will prevent me from contributing.
Recently I have chosen to ignore this type of thought and decided to contribute anyway and see what happens. I have been able to do this by valuing that everyone’s time is precious and all contributions are valid and valuable, including my own. At a recent .b mindfulness teacher training I contributed two things, that significantly impacted on my experience of the event. One of them was widely appreciated by others, the other, I just loved and felt heard.
My first contribution was to presence our ancestors.
Observation: on welcoming us back to day two, the event organiser, did a short ‘welcome to country’ and mentioned the local aboriginal people of Manly, the Gamaragal and their ancestors. They also apologised for not having done it on day one.
First thoughts: the apology was respectful and beautiful, there were no Gamaragal people attending, there were 44 Australians, 3 kiwis, 3 English and 1 Canadian present for whom none of their ancestry was acknowledged.
First feelings: glad and sad.
Feeling in the room: it was quiet and sad
My contribution: it took me awhile to work out what was going on in my experience, as my intuition was barking at me that this is something I could contribute too. The opportunity arose later in the day when we had breakout groups for a mid course assessment. I thanked the event organiser, who happened to be in my group, for the ‘welcome to country’ and told the group, as a pakeha or white person, my own ancestry almost always goes unacknowledged and that I felt for the Australians in the room, as they were present, they live in Australia and their own ancestry went unacknowledged.
The effect on the event: the event organizer, who was also one of the trainers, lead the meditation at the end of the day and said as we prepared “…and I would like to welcome and acknowledge all of our ancestors”. They then added this to the welcome for the next two days.
The effect on me: I felt heard and for my ancestors to be acknowledged for one of the few times in my life, and by others, was very special.
My second contribution was to presence gratitude and appreciation
Observation: my fellow course participants were singing the praises of the course during the breaks
First thoughts: we should do something, but what? how can we thank the trainers? The giving of gifts.
First feelings: happiness and joy at wanting to express my own gratitude, the same again for creating space for others to do so as well.
My contribution: I thought who might like to help with this, I recruited 2 people and later another volunteered. Together we decided on 4 gifts; the gift of a shell from the beach, the gift of word, the gift of a poem and the gift of a piece of handmade card. I worked out a rough running order and said I would kick it all off at the end of the day.
What happened? The end of the day, quickly became the middle of the day, because after our 2nd to last class session, which focused on gratitude (I didn’t know), the event organizer and the lead trainer stood at the front and started thanking everyone and themselves. It was slightly odd, very heartfelt and meant my end of the day schedule had been bumped forward. When they had finished, our last person in the running order took it on themselves to go first and he did it beautifully. As he finished I grabbed the role of facilitator and invited all four of the trainers to stand up the front. I let them and the rest of the course know that something else had been organised to thank them. I invited the room to stand with the trainers and asked them to take a minutes silence as a way of revering and respecting the teachers before us and the teachings we had been given. The running order then followed as planned and it was beautiful and rich. It took about 10 mins.
The effect on the event: more than a dozen people came up to me afterwards, thanking me for contributing and organising the gifts. One of the trainers said she had never experienced a moment of silence like that and it made her heart burst. Everyone seemed very happy.
The effect on me: I felt humbled, peaceful and connected.
To conclude, what I would suggest, if you feel something missing and would like to contribute, is to be brave, Be brave because all contributions are valid and valuable, including your own. One never knows what sort’ve magic might turn up if the conditions are right, and what sort of transformations, personally and collectively, might happen.
Shirley O’Toole commented on 19-Apr-2015 03:02 PM
Thank you for sharing this. I too have been in facilitated events and found myself in a critical space and wondered how I could shift out of it.. Your experience gives me some strategies for allowing different behaviours to emerge.
Graham Oliver commented on 09-May-2015 05:43 PM
very nice 🙂