There’s a deep undercurrent in my life, that’s always felt meaningful: Bringing people together to connect, facilitating spaces for us all to grow to our potential, by means of presence. Allowing and engaging, actually listening: The sensations, emotions, passions, painpoints and desires – everything that arises.
The reason I’m writing this is to integrate what I’ve worked with until this point in time.
There have been three groups of meeting life as it is that I’ve facilitated. Two of them were church groups, one of them a study group and the other an activity group for the disabled. The one I’m facilitating now is for men and has a more open approach. All ways of speaking about one’s truth and reality are welcomed equally.
What I feel the current group is based on are two primary principles. Singing, and constructive group communication.
We sing at the beginning and at the end of each group. This helps become grounded physically and present to one’s being both mentally and emotionally, in one’s heart.
Constructive group communication was established in the group early on by the group’s previous facilitator, and has been maintained since. The rule we have in the group is that we take turns talking.
- When one of us starts sharing, no one is allowed to interrupt.
- When someone finishes their turn, others may ask for permission to comment or to ask questions about what was shared.
- Otherwise, anyone else can take their turn.
I find this simple structure has been crucial for ensuring a safe space for sharing incredibly deep experiences.
I’ve always been interested in flesh-and-bones style psychology and in how people learn (pedagogy), in spirituality and in philosophy and sensemaking, and in poetry. Later on in life I’ve found inquiry, as well as various meditation techniques.
I’ve also wound up counseling various people informally as a friend.
In friendships I’ve had, there’s often been an element of being fascinated by each individual person’s trajectory of growth into what they find meaningful. It’s a commitment to their growth that most people in western culture wouldn’t perhaps think of as the role of a friend, but that of a therapist or a coach.
I’ve practiced listening and counseling as a volunteer helping telephone line worker. I’ve taken up the role of a leadership coach for a student of a leadership course organized by a Lutheran church. I’ve wound up counselling coworkers at workplaces in a tone that went way deeper into the passions of individual coworkers than professional relationships usually require.
All this typically happens as a side effect of being sincere about how I feel about life. A key element of my work is to actually be a friend to those I work with.
Later on, inquiry has also become a service I sell to select individuals. The practice is ideal to me: The format allows me to retain my role as a friend and the relationship as that of equals. Another key aspect of all my work with people is maintaining presence on all levels – mental, physical, and emotional. Both to my own experience on those levels, but also the experience of the other. This has often appeared key in understanding what is actually important about a given situation, and guiding attention.
Meeting people as equals allows them to find their own power and feel more deeply seen than a teacher/student or a counselor/patient relationship would. Yet I typically have something to offer as coach/teacher too. “What to pay attention to?” “Can you notice that’s your inner critic speaking?” And so on. Those I work with tend to commit to the work because of the depth of space that’s available to them for reflection.
Other methods and contexts for meeting life as it is
Once in a while I come across new ways of encountering people as they are and allowing them to construct reality freely.
In addition to inquiry mentioned above, there are three:
Usability testing allows humans to explore digital and other product experiences in a way that helps creators of thos products understand their customer experiences better (Context: IT industry)
Phenomenon-based workshop style learning allows learners of a specific phenomenon or theme in a way that empowers them to construct their own knowledge (Context: Learning institutions, pedagogy)
Circling is a way of exploring experiential living reality of humans freely but in a supported, guided, and facilitated environment. Its cousin authentic relating offers more structured exercises for practicing various facets of constructive human interaction.
I’ve formally worked in the educational field by teaching for a couple of years in a polytech / university of applied sciences, and by getting a vocational teacher degree. In the end the role of a “teacher” even in Finland seems quite system centric and not nearly learner (umh, human) centric enough. The above phenomenon based workshop I mention was a relatively narrow part of the training. If we keep ignoring each other as independent, sincere, humans, is it wonder what our societies keep becoming?
This is why I feel we sort of need to start from the bottom up. It’s clear that the cognition-centric learning paradigms that are currently dominant just won’t be able to stand the test of time. We can’t afford to raise another generation of humans who have lost their sincerity in endless power hierarchies current society is built on. Presence work, a view of human as beings as intellectually, emotionally, physically integrated beings, and genuine connection between humans needs to become the basis for all education.