I’ve spent the past four days in a former convent occupying a tiny room with a single bed, a small desk, a chair and a sink. No bathroom. That was down the hall with the shower. Shared by 17 other women. The three men in the group had their own – bigger – bathroom. Of course. When I arrived, I had my doubts about whether I’d stay. I’m glad I did.
So what was I doing there? Every once in a while, I get an opportunity to work on my own skills as a facilitator. This was unlike other development sessions I’ve attended. In so many ways. To begin with, there wasn’t another labour educator or union activist in the group. The other participants are engaged in different types of facilitation. One was a management consultant. Another a spiritual healer. Two work with non-violent communication and restorative circles. There were community counsellors. A former federal government senior manager. Several young people working on environmental sustainability. There was also a strong element of faith and something referred to as “source”. Another word for God, I learned. I was out of my element, way out of my comfort zone.
The language of the session was another struggle. Holding space. Resonant voice practice. Theory U. Questions such as, “What does life want me to understand about fields of consciousness?” and “What does life want me to understand about hosting deep fields?”
I fumed internally. Life doesn’t want me to understand anything! It doesn’t want me to do anything! Life just is. What’s the real question?! Where’s the clarity?! Frequently, I had no idea what anyone was talking about. At times I had no idea what I was talking about. It was deeply frustrating.
And yet… I learned. In spite of myself? Perhaps.
Stay open, I said to myself. See where it takes you. Somewhere along the way, things began to shift. Clarity began to emerge. I found a way through the confusion, embraced what made sense to me, discarded the rest. Or at least, set it aside for mulling another time.
I came away with a greater sense of what I need to bring to my work. I came away with another level of understanding of how groups work. How to recognize and work with the energy in the room. I came away with new appreciation of the relationship I have with the people who co-facilitate with me and a better understanding of how to support them.
I have new things to ponder, to try. New experiments to design. And I’m profoundly grateful for the people with whom I’ve shared the week. They were generous and encouraging and although we often didn’t speak the same language, I’ve made new connections and friends. Our evenings were filled with laughter and music. I learned how to play a nose flute! I danced salsa! I drummed on a garbage can!
In the closing moments one of the organizers found a few words to describe each person in the room. “Wry sage cracked open,” she said to me with a smile. And a young woman, younger than my daughters, gave me a beautiful gift of words and heart. I even sang when it was over. So not me. And yet… it was.
Oh… and I’ve learned that I can survive in a tiny room and share a bathroom and go without a phone and a television. Maybe it’s time to be less of a princess. I write this on the next leg of a lengthy road trip, sipping a glass of wine in a hotel suite with two tvs, a private bathroom to myself, a living room, a bedroom with a king size bed, internet, phone. I love upgrades. No more dashing down the hall in my pajamas in the middle of the night, looking over my shoulder hoping not to be seen. Did I mention the private bathroom?