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Four Facilitator Lessons From Dancing Under the Moon!

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I am giving you permission to NOT read this blog because after all I am just going to share about one of the most powerful experiences of my life and how it makes me understand even more deeply the power of facilitation….  And how we might best offer our essential and urgent services to the world as facilitators.

I just experienced four nights of dancing under the moon – and would like to share four powerful lessons for facilitators that came through for me.  Plus many other powerful life lessons which I am not sharing much of here.

You may recall in the last blog, I was attending “moon dance ceremonies” with my daughter in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is between Panama and Nicaragua in Central America. Here we are Mother and daughter after the four nights of dancing under the moon with 200 other women – all races and ages – from all over the world. We look pretty good no?

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I went because my daughter asked me. I was highly doubting I could do this thing required of me. Stay up four nights in a row… Dance with an inflamed chronic toe injury…  And come to understand and honor what it might mean to my daughter and all these other women, and the 30 plus men who came to support the women and ensure things went well for us.

I did all these things I am proud and happy to say. I did it! I stayed up four nights, I danced every round except one and I deeply came to understand and respect the power of this ceremony.

I know sometimes we doubt ourselves as facilitators to go on the long journey of some groups to “emerge” from the darkness. But we can and we must do it to help create a safe and just world.  It was like that for us in Costa Rica. As the night passed from black and white coloring to the brilliant colors of daylight, we looked at each other in amazement as each new day dawned. We cheered each other on each night with drumming, singing, yelling, and urging each other on to keep moving one foot in front of the next. Sometimes,  a little lethargic, sometimes wildly energetic, but always moving and praying for healing.

Here’s an archway that my daughter made for all the women coming to the moon dance.

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Lesson 1:

We work collectively to do the things that we cannot do alone. We need each other’s energy to do this. I saw a t-shirt in the San Jose airport right after the ceremonies and it seemed appropriate. It said:  “Strong alone. Unstoppable together”.The facilitator keeps the group dancing, plays the metaphoric drum, gives the group just enough rest to keep going, and knows she or he must tap into this collective energy in creative ways.

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The leaders (Abuelas or grandmothers) of our moon dance always showed the way. They were out front, stepping enthusiastically. They gave thanks before we began. Even though they were elders, they never sat out or gave up. They never wavered in their faith of what we were doing.  If we made mistakes, we heard about it and were expected to make things right, but they still  believed in us. We knew they thought what we were creating together was right and good and powerful. They ensured all the supporters were thanked, that each leader had a chance to offer words of encouragement and wisdom. They gave us new patterns of movement each night. They kept committing to us and we kept committing to them.

Lesson 2:

The facilitator and the organizational leaders must believe in the group’s ability to do the task. We must acknowledge all the ways we are supported. We must step up and be untiring in our modelling and our ability to keep the group moving. We must keep moving ourselves.

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With each night, even though I grew more and more tired, I became more courageous. I recognized I was not alone in my desire to see healing occur at both a personal and a planetary level. I had been so afraid of making mistakes in the ceremonies. What if I had to stop, or stumbled, what if I wore something inappropriate, sang the wrong words, did not wake up soon enough after each short rest, needed to leave the circle to go to the bathroom too often, did not believe as strongly as the others… All my patterns of shame about being less than impeccable were showing up. When I expressed these to  my daughter Jessica, she  kindly reminded me that if I made a mistake, someone would show me the correct way, and really this was not a test of doing everything exactly. I began to offer my compassion to others who needed a quiet, strong listener. I began to introduce myself to the leaders even though it was scary. I began to take care of myself even if it appeared to be selfish or not what everyone else was doing. I began to heal my fears of not being enough.

Lesson 3:

You will make mistakes as the facilitator. As long as you are authentic, willing to ask, and have the group show you the way when you get “lost” or unsure of your way, you remain in sacred service to the group. Strong alone, unstoppable together!  You are enough even if you don’t know it all.

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We were all given groups to stay with for the entire time. I was first assigned to the East direction group. “Cool,” I thought.  The east is a time of beginnings, where the sun rises – sounded good to me. Then for good reasons, I was moved to the North direction, “Even better,” I thought – like my company name! Plus my daughter was standing as a fire keeper in the North Group.  But alas, finally I landed in the south group and learned it is really ok to have a lot of changes. I survived. I came to love this location in the dance and depended on its certitude. I learned that the south is the place of adults versus children or adolescents for example. It was where the humming bird shows up metaphorically. It is one of my favorite birds. It represented the busiest time of our lives in a way. High productivity. I recalled the amazing speed and efficacy of the hummingbird feeding on each flower, collecting energy from each possible place. We provide this to groups as facilitators. We are called in to help them be productive.

But what I liked best is what the North represents. This is where I really understood what I try to be and create as a facilitator. This is the purpose of the facilitation profession. Are you ready for this? It is truly beautiful. It may be why I named my company North Star Facilitators 21 years ago next month.

The North represents the capacity for transformation. It is the place of ancestral knowledge. It is the place of inner beauty and inner knowing. Yes! Since humans first existed, we figured out ways to create systems, we have sat in wisdom circles, we have learned to collaborate. As group facilitators, we are simply helping people  “re-encounter” what has been living in our genes for millennia.  People respond well to using collaborative tools, to “talking” in turns, to listening to the elders, to remembering, retelling and learning from their history, to being in gratitude, to following systems and procedures, to listening over and over even if we’ve heard it many times, because we unconsciously know the power of these tools well. We as facilitators are simply bringing the group back to what we as human beings have always known to work.

Lesson 4:

Use the tools we have practiced forever. Expect people will respond to them like  “ducks in water”. Know you are a sacred instrument of transformation. You are their guiding star. You help them come to know once again their inner knowing,  their universal wisdom. That is your job if you can do that. You will transform the group. We will come to  trust each other. And with that trust and support, anything is possible. Even, as in my case, four nights of dancing under the powerful moonlight.

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What experiences of transformation have you had that you can apply to our sacred profession as facilitators?

By the way, it’s International Women’s Day and here is one of our favorite local charities that does fabulous work on behalf of women globally, World Pulse.

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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