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Facilitating in the "Here & Now"

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One of the important principles involved in “CorporateTheatre” facilitation is:

‘The Facilitator processes only what has happened in this workshop here, today’. Unless the behaviour or insight has been part of the participants’ experience in this workshop, it may not be relevant to process it. Force-fitting an insight or learning from yesterday’s workshop, no matter how brilliant it may have been, into today’s workshop may not be effective.

This obviously requires that the Facilitator is totally alert and sensitive to whatever is happening during the course of the workshop. The interaction among the participants, the changes they make along the way, the sharing, the constantly changing leadership patterns – all this has to be observed and quickly related to the learning objectives. While doing so, it is important that the insights come as far as possible from the participant’s experience and sharing, and not from the facilitator’s ‘discourse’.

This is very similar to the actor’s process. Often, during the performance, something happens which may not have happened during the rehearsals or during earlier performances. If this change has come out of the instinct and impulse of the actor, working within the framework of the character and the situation, then it can be a defining moment where the performance goes beyond the rehearsals. This is where real ‘Theatre’ happens. However, in order for this defining moment to be carried into the play so as to lift it beyond the mundane, both the initiating actor as well as the responding actor have to be completely in the present.

While we often hear this concept of being in the present, or being in the ‘here and now’, explaining what it means or describing how it feels can be extremely difficult. There is a Zen story, which like all Zen stories, seeks to prod the listener into experiencing the ‘profound’ through the simplest of imagery. To use the often repeated phrase, Zen stories are like ‘the finger pointing at the moon’. If the seeker gets stuck with the finger, he misses the moon. While being guided by the finger to look in the direction of the moon, the seeker has to look beyond the finger and see the moon for himself.

The story is about a man being chased by his enemies who want to kill him. As he runs for his life, he falls off a cliff into the deep ravine below. As he is falling, he manages to grab hold of a bush. For the moment he feels safe as the bush is far beyond the reach of his enemies who stand on the ledge helplessly looking down at him and screaming for his blood. The man suddenly realizes that the bush is slowly getting uprooted and in a few moments, he is going to fall into the ravine below. He looks down and sees a tiger looking up at him, growling in hunger. At that moment the man sees a wild flower blooming next to his face, and exclaims, “What a beautiful flower!” In spite of a dreadful past and a seemingly terrible future, the present moment becomes extremely blissful.

On stage, during a performance, the actor sometimes finds himself distracted. Some disturbance in the audience, a messed up movement or dialogue, the anxiety about whether the complex scene coming up next is going to work well. If the actor gives in to this distraction, the energy of the performance is diluted. A technique that I use to focus during such situations is simply this. Listen to the other actor, or do whatever you are doing, with total attention, as if you are hearing it or doing it for the first time. In an instant, I find myself back in the present, enjoying the performance moment to moment, finding the rhythm, and new possibilities. Inevitably I find that even while delivering exacting performances, this puts me into a state of comfort, relaxation, and great enjoyment.

The parallels to facilitation as well as life are obvious. A piece of music becomes enjoyable to the extent to which it can engage us in the listening by putting aside all other thoughts. An intense game of football, or even a video game become that much more enjoyable to the extent it brings all our energy and attention into the present moment. As the ancient sages have taught us, the past and the future exist only in our minds. We exist only in the present. If we can live with that presence, we can enjoy all the wildflowers that bloom along the way, moment to moment. All our energy, our instinctive competence, and our attention becomes available to us all the time, in whatever we do, making each moment and every activity that much productive and enjoyable.

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