Mindful Facilitation

Facilitation is an art in the finest sense – both from the perspective of an artist and as a viewer. Each time a group interacts, a painting emerges. With careful and diligent observation, a story unfolds – enhanced or diminished by our willingness to be a bridge or an obstruction. Buddhists believe that we do not learn from our experiences, but rather by our willingness to experience.

I think that facilitation is either educationally or emotionally oriented, but seldom both. For facilitation to be truly transformative, it must come from a holistic approach – appealing to the mind, the body, and the heart. There is a saying, “Unlearning racism requires a change of heart.” Real change often occurs when there is a crisis. For change to be lasting, it must move the heart enough for one to act courageously – not just in a temporary sense, but as a conscious and purposeful act over a lifetime of different relationships and situations. So a crisis can be perceived, not just as danger, but also as an opportunity for learning and for change.

Mindful facilitation requires a tremendous amount of trust: trust in the goodness of each person, a belief that each action creates a reaction, that the individual and group will tell us where to go next, that we need to be aware that we often will only see what we want to see, and that to be fully present means being consciously aware of each moment and the context of what is being said and what is not; what is seen and what is not.

To me, that is what the art of mindful facilitation is all about – helping others to become mindful of our interactions with one another by noticing our connections and disconnections, as well as the impact of our words and actions. In learning what makes each of us who we are, we can choose to transform that knowledge into compassion and understanding. And through our compassion and understanding, we gain a deeper respect for and honoring of each other’s journey and contribution.

The Training Objectives of Mindful Facilitation

  1. Observing what is said and what is not said.
  2. Noticing the intent and impact of all communications.
  3. Understanding how the impact of our life experiences can affect our attitudes and behaviors.
  4. Learning how to listen and to respond effectively and compassionately.
  5. Becoming aware of the effect of culture on relationships.
  6. Replacing adversarial and defensive statements with mindful responses of observation and inquiry.
  7. Making use of non-verbal communications.
  8. Experiencing and viewing anger as an intimate experience and conflict as an opportunity.
  9. Beginning, through observation and inquiry, at each participant’s current state of mind and level of awareness.
  10. Creating community within groups.