Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Five Rhythms

Gabrielle Roth talks about the five rhythms of the soul – flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness, in her books Maps to Ecstasy and Sweat Your Prayers. In Maps to Ecstasy she describes some experiences she had when teaching dance and drama early in her life. She describes how her students became her teachers, and that they taught her to lead by following.

“ It was impossible to “control” 300 kids on a playground or 50 seniors, each with their own words and fixed ideas. It was impossible to impose my great plans – plans I may have stayed up half the night creating – unless they happened (as they occasionally did) to fit into their flow. More often than not, to retain my sanity, I had to drop my brilliant ideas and flow, spontaneously creating movement and dance out of the energy in the room or on the playground. I had to draw them out from where they were. I followed them into the moment, and found a magical place.”

She describes how she discovered these five rhythms by paying attention to the movements of the participants. She also describes how she danced with a group of schizophrenics – how she connected with them where they were. When I read this I immediately thought of facilitating and training. So often we are taught or shown by example that we as a facilitator or trainer should “control” the group. And it can feel like a wrestling match or cat herding when approached this way, a great struggle.

I have learned that only when you stop attempting to control, can you truly connect with people where they are -- and discover together what the energy of the group is and how best to support it. Over the last several years, I have been learning and using new ways to facilitate groups. Methods that provide a way to connect with the energy, passions, and interests of the group AND which promote discovery.

One of my favorite methods is Open Space Technology – which has enough structure to promote creativity but not too much. When facilitating discussions using this – people are allowed to discuss whatever they are most interested in at that moment. And that is a powerful and wonderful opportunity. I am already noticing how these 5 rhythms show up in groups. Thanks Lynne for sharing them with our NIA dance class. For more information on NIA go to www.nianow.com

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