The Strength of a Shy Facilitator
So, you might have noticed, I’m a shy person, an introvert, and someone who’s wrestled with social anxiety. So what am I doing facilitating workshops? And how does that work? And what is this all about, anyway?
It’s a fun question. I got all excited about writing about this. Because here’s what I’ve learned: My experience as a shy person, as an introvert, and as someone who experiences social anxiety, is that it’s actually a beautiful strength when it comes to facilitating groups!
It took me a long time to see this. Ever since my first yoga class at Kripalu, when I was 18, in 2005, I’ve had the sense that I wanted to facilitate groups of some kind, dealing with healing, and self-love, and the body. But I also felt paralyzed at the thought of it: being in that role at the center of attention…honestly, not only did it make me feel incredibly anxious, but I also felt ashamed of even wanting to do that.
I have been in so many situations where the leader of a group was on an ego trip about holding power over others, whether in a subtle way, or in an obvious way, and I had been so turned off by that, and I wasn’t sure what a different model for holding a group would even look like. I just knew that I didn’t want to be that person that makes others feel smaller than them.
And I still don’t! And this is the beautiful thing that I’ve come to see: My introversion and sensitivity to power dynamics actually set me up really well for doing things differently: what if the facilitator is really just there to be of service to the group? What if I’m there to hold space for others, to listen with kindness, to help make connections between people, to offer insights, but without needing the focus to be all about me? And what if my inward focus creates a space that helps others go inward, as well?
It actually sounds pretty great to me! I’d want to go to that workshop! And I wouldn’t mind if the facilitator was a little quiet sometimes, or a little nervous. I would appreciate the clarity of their intention, and the space they left for me to have my own experience.
So, it turns out, it really does work that way! And the really cool thing is, the more I experience faciliating groups with this perspective, the less nervous I become about speaking in front of the group. Lately, I’ve actually felt a sense of calm excitement about facilitating! This means a lot, for someone who used to tremble so hard that I could barely speak, just as a participant of a group.
I now think of that old model as the patriarchal one; where one person stands in front of a group as the “one who knows”, to fill the minds of a crowd of passive “students” who simply absorb information. I don’t like being on either side of that dynamic.
The more I’ve learned about the Sacred Feminine, the more I’ve seen this other way of doing things; coming together in circles, where we see everyone as holding wisdom inside, and we gather together to share it with each other. Someone holds the space for everyone, true, but it’s not assumed that that person is better or more knowledgeable than anyone else: they’re simply the one who has offered to do the sacred work of holding, and framing, and nurturing the environment and the people within it.
That is a role that I am very comfortable with. In fact, it is something that fills my heart with joy. I am 100% here for that.
And on to the second question: what are we actually doing here?
Well, my primary goal is to create an environment where people feel safe to be, and see, and express themselves, exactly as they are in that moment. In my experience, simply being in a group that holds a space of loving acceptance for it’s members is a transformative and healing experience. It makes me think of this quote I love from Dance of the Dissident Daughter:
“Maybe in the end we cannot make healing happen; perhaps it is, after, a grace. But we can put ourselves in its path. We can create a healing refuge for ourselves.” -Sue Monk Kidd,
So, Voice & Body is foremost one of those healing refuges. And then, within that container, we get to explore and read together: What are other women coming up with on their healing journeys? What does it bring up in us to read their words? Does it resonate with us? Do we disagree? Does it remind us of a part of ourselves that we’d forgotten about?
Sharing in front of a group of kind witnesses is also a transformative experience in it’s own right; especially when it’s done on a regular basis, it allows us to become more fully ourselves. This is part of the healing embedded in 12-step programs. It’s also something that we practiced at Kripalu, and it has had a profound effect on me.
Then we get a break from the world of the interpersonal; a time to go inward and process what we’ve experienced privately, with a journal.
Once we’ve had some integration time, we get to bring our insights back out into the world, in the form of movement. There are few pleasures as healing as the opportunity to move your body freely in the presence of others who are doing the same. I love to gently encourage people to explore movement and help them to feel safe opening up and moving in new ways that don’t have to be “pretty”, or “attractive” or “hip”…but just moving in the way that feels good to us from the inside. This is a process of mindful movement and “coming home” to the body.
I’ve been delighted to watch people who are not used to letting their bodies move this way, let go of their inhibitions, and find a freedom of movement that they didn’t know was possible for them. I wish this for everyone who wants to experience it!
I try to think of this group in terms of what I need, too. I think that keeps the offering alive. I’m right there with you, healing and growing, and I’m really just inviting you to come and heal along with me.
So come out and play 🙂