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Listening skills practise · 2017-03-06 · Listening skills practise . In sessions 5 and 6 you...

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 1 © 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies Listening skills practise In sessions 5 and 6 you were introduced to 3 main listening skills; Reflecting Content, Reflecting Feelings and Summarizing. To consolidate these skills we will be doing some further practise. I want to make sure that these skills are not just something that you might sometimes remember to use, but that they become part of your natural communication style. That way, when it comes to running groups it won’t feel like an effort to use them and your clients will feel heard and supported by you. I also want to see you using these skills correctly in your assessment video when you are conducting your group discussion after delivering your meditation. So let’s review the 3 skills you have learnt (The extracts below are from Session 5). Reflecting Content involves listening to the person’s story and saying back to them in your own words what you heard them say. It shows the person that you have heard what they are trying to say and that you have understood them. When we reflect content we are letting them know that we have been listening to them and that we value what they have to say. We are not parroting back to them, in an annoying way, but by paraphrasing we are letting them know that we have been listening. We also get to pick up the most important points of what someone has shared and say that back to them which may help them synthesize their thoughts and understand them. Here is an example of Reflecting Content: Speaker: I am finding myself flooded with work at the moment. I have 3 part time jobs and they have all become busy at the same time. At my night job we are moving premises so there is a massive change going on and plenty to organize. At my day jobs, things have really picked up and we have been flooded with orders. I am feeling exhausted. At least in the past it was generally only one of the jobs that was busy at any one time and I could manage easily. Right now, that’s just not the case. Listener: You are going through a busy time in all your workplaces. Reflecting feelings involves listening to someone’s story and reflecting back to them how we imagine they might be feeling. In a culture that is rarely comfortable with the show of feelings, it’s wonderful to allow your participants the “safe” space to be who they really are. This means accepting their feelings just because they feel them. An example of this skill in action is that a participant is sharing a difficult experience with a flatmate and says that her flat mate is constantly rude and never pays bills when asked to. An example of a reflecting feelings statement might be: “You must be feeling really frustrated.”
Transcript
Page 1: Listening skills practise · 2017-03-06 · Listening skills practise . In sessions 5 and 6 you were introduced to 3 main listening skills; Reflecting Content, Reflecting Feelings

Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 1

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Listening skills practise

In sessions 5 and 6 you were introduced to 3 main listening skills; Reflecting Content, Reflecting Feelings and Summarizing. To consolidate these skills we will be doing some further practise. I want to make sure that these skills are not just something that you might sometimes remember to use, but that they become part of your natural communication style. That way, when it comes to running groups it won’t feel like an effort to use them and your clients will feel heard and supported by you. I also want to see you using these skills correctly in your assessment video when you are conducting your group discussion after delivering your meditation. So let’s review the 3 skills you have learnt (The extracts below are from Session 5). Reflecting Content involves listening to the person’s story and saying back to them in your own words what you heard them say. It shows the person that you have heard what they are trying to say and that you have understood them. When we reflect content we are letting them know that we have been listening to them and that we value what they have to say. We are not parroting back to them, in an annoying way, but by paraphrasing we are letting them know that we have been listening. We also get to pick up the most important points of what someone has shared and say that back to them which may help them synthesize their thoughts and understand them. Here is an example of Reflecting Content: Speaker: I am finding myself flooded with work at the moment. I have 3 part time jobs and they have all become busy at the same time. At my night job we are moving premises so there is a massive change going on and plenty to organize. At my day jobs, things have really picked up and we have been flooded with orders. I am feeling exhausted. At least in the past it was generally only one of the jobs that was busy at any one time and I could manage easily. Right now, that’s just not the case. Listener: You are going through a busy time in all your workplaces. Reflecting feelings involves listening to someone’s story and reflecting back to them how we imagine they might be feeling. In a culture that is rarely comfortable with the show of feelings, it’s wonderful to allow your participants the “safe” space to be who they really are. This means accepting their feelings just because they feel them. An example of this skill in action is that a participant is sharing a difficult experience with a flatmate and says that her flat mate is constantly rude and never pays bills when asked to. An example of a reflecting feelings statement might be: “You must be feeling really frustrated.”

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 2

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

In this case “frustrated” is the reflected feeling chosen, though there could be several possibilities; annoyed, upset, worried etc. Feelings usually consist of one word eg. Sad, angry, happy, excited. It’s easy to confuse feelings with thoughts – they are quite different. Thoughts usually consist of a string of words rather than a direct feeling. An example of a thought for the above example might be “what a horrible girl”. In this example such a statement engages the listener in the “story” presented by the speaker, rather than being a neutral and supportive listener. By reflecting thoughts we’re validating the story, but it’s validating the feelings under the story that is most powerful and supportive for the speaker. Validating feelings gives the speaker permission to be feeling just as they are and allows them to own the feeling and experience it fully and then move forward towards clarity and resolution rather than remaining stuck in trying to justify or suppress the feeling. There are some people for whom this approach is not suitable. Mainly people who are already continually in touch with or overwhelmed by their emotions. Such people need to be encouraged to get back in touch with their rational thinking processes rather than stay focussed on how they are feeling. Learning which feeling is appropriate to reflect back to the client is a skill that requires practise for most. The listener may need to pick up on the speaker’s body language and other non-verbal cues. Most often the listener can imagine what it might feel like to be in the speaker’s shoes and use this empathic approach to decide on a feeling to reflect. Here is an example of Reflecting Feelings: Speaker: She just walked right past me like I was nothing to her, just a stranger. I couldn’t believe her audacity; after all I’ve done for her! Listener………you sound angry about that Summarising is a really useful skill for many situations:

− When someone has been talking for some time and you want to close the conversation in a polite way.

− When someone is sharing a lot of information and you have not had the chance to reflect feelings or content because they have been talking so fast.

− When someone has shared a lot of information and Reflecting Content would take too long.

− When you want to review the ground you have covered together. Summarising draws together the main points of the content and may also include some feelings. This presents the speaker with an overview of what they have shared, which not only allows them to feel heard and understood, but reflects their information back to them in an organised format. This helps them develop a larger vision of the situation they are describing and therefore move forward more quickly and with a clearer picture of the situation.

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 3

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Here is an example of Summarising: Speaker: In my life I have finally come to a point where everything is going right. The wedding is in October and I can’t wait! There is so much to do…flowers, hair, venue, cars, it’s just overwhelming. Sometimes I find myself really enjoying the process of preparing for the wedding and at other times I notice I am dwelling on the past and wondering what will go wrong. I know that everything in my life has changed but it’s not that easy to move on from the past. There are always bad memories dragging me back there. Listener: You sound excited about the wedding plans and your promising future yet worried and haunted by the past. How confusing for you. Notice there is no advice given, and we do not try and change the speaker’s mind about how they are feeling. We simply reflect back what we are hearing in a non- judgmental and neutral way. Ok. So now that we have revisited the skills, let’s do some more practise so that they become a natural extension of how you listen to people. When people first learn these skills they comment that using them feels fake and unnatural. This is because these are new and unfamiliar, like crossing your arms the reverse way. They only feel that way for a while – until you become used to using them. After some practice, it will feel unnatural to go back to your old habits. In session 5 you practised with some written examples. In session 6 you practised with your buddy. In this session you will be practising on your friends, family, partner, workmates or children. 7.1 Set the intention that on a particular day you will practise each skill a minimum of 2 times. Record a brief description of the information that was shared (without the person’s name) and your response using the specified skill. Sample response: The shopkeeper said he had been working since 6 am. My response: You must be feeling exhausted by now. (Reflecting Feelings) a) 3 occasions that you reflected content with someone (not necessarily the same person each time) i)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ii)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 4

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… iii)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… b) 3 occasions that you reflected feelings with someone i)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ii)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… iii)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… c) 3 occasions that you summarized with someone i)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ii)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 5

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

iii)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… It can help to carry a notepad in your bag/briefcase and note these down as they occur rather than trying to remember the details later!

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 6

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Progress on the 11 Attitudes

Whilst we are conducting a review of some skills, this might be a good time to think back to the 11 attitudes we introduced on page 22 of Session 1. For those who missed this addition to the course, you can read about them here. The 11 attitudes: 1. Don’t expect anything

2. Don’t strain

3. Don’t rush

4. Don’t cling to anything and don’t reject anything

5. Let go

6. Accept everything that arises

7. Be gentle with yourself (and others)

8. Investigate yourself.

9. View all problems as challenges (and be willing to solve them)

10. Don’t ponder (too much)

11. Don’t dwell upon contrasts.

7.2 a) Comment on one or two attitudes where you feel you have made the most progress either through this course or via your own personal development efforts. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….........

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 7

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

b) Comment on one or two attitudes that you feel you would like to continue developing. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………......... ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….........

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 8

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Working with clients with special needs

Anxiety, panic attacks, depression and mood disorders are becoming increasingly common today and many sufferers will seek meditation to assist them and compliment other therapies. Temporary or long term sufferers can benefit greatly from relaxation and meditation. People experiencing anxiety however, are likely to find meditation difficult and often anxiety provoking at times. For sufferers of anxiety or panic disorders then gentle relaxation, grounding, moving meditation, mindfulness and when they are ready, gentle breathing meditations can work well. It is said that panic and anxiety cannot exist in a relaxed body. Our aim is to bring clients into the deepest relaxation possible for them. This may vary greatly between individuals. Be prepared to give these clients special attention. Be aware that:

• They may need to open their eyes or sit up at times throughout the meditation • They may need to leave the room quietly during the meditation • They may sigh loudly as they release built up tension • They may need extra reassurance and support • They may not complete the whole meditation and should not be pushed to • Patience may be required as progress may be slow

Clients will need a meditation that is simple and clear. Visualizations based in nature work well. Being in nature is proven to have beneficial effects on people suffering from anxiety and depression.1 Visualization in nature has similar effects. The body relaxation part of the meditation can be the main focus and visualization can be used to calm the monkey mind and give it something to centre on. As clients grow more comfortable with the process you may advance your meditations in depth and scope. Some elements of meditations for clients with special needs:

• Keep pauses shorter than normal, so that clients are not left hanging for too long. • Use positive language • Do not maintain a focus on negative feelings for too long, even if they are present. • Be realistic in your expectations and do not expect results immediately. • Use healing imagery but keep it very non-threatening and safe. • Imagine that you were feeling fearful and edgy, what would you need right now? • A sense of comfort, reassurance and support need to be present. • A relaxed, positive and gentle tone of voice is important.

1 file:///C:/Users/Lisa%20Forde/Downloads/HPHP_state-of-the-evidence_2015%20(2).pdf

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 9

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Breathing techniques are commonly used to assist with anxiety, as shortness of breath often accompanies the onset of anxiety. Gaining control over the breath gives the client the sense of being in greater control of their feelings. Altering our breathing rate affects other bodily functions such as heart rate that can soothe panic and anxiety. When we are anxious the normally balanced and appropriate exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide becomes disrupted. We take in more oxygen than the body needs and we over breathe or hyperventilate. When the body detects this imbalance, it responds with a number of other physical changes such as dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, breathlessness, blurred vision, increased heart rate, numbness and tingling in the extremities, cold clammy hands and muscle stiffness. Although over-breathing and hyperventilation are not dangerous in themselves, they can leave us feeling exhausted and panicked and we can experience intense anxiety, which may, in severe cases lead to a panic attack. Breathing techniques that slow breathing down and change breathing from shallow breathing in the upper chest to lower stomach and abdominal breathing reduce anxiety. When practised regularly, we can use these techniques in anxious situations or when feeling overwhelmed. Be aware that at the beginning, some clients may struggle with breath practises as they may trigger increased anxiety. However with a little consistency and practise this fades and the benefits increase. Clients should not persist with techniques that feel too uncomfortable and stimulating and it may be necessary for them to try an alternative technique (such as moving meditation) until they feel ready to return to breathing practises. The calming breath is a great technique to teach those suffering from anxiety, though of course there are many breathing techniques that can work well. Those of you who have practised yoga will know this technique, or a variation of it. This is a great technique to practise anywhere: on the bus, in the car or in your chair. Whilst you are learning, you might like to place a hand on your abdomen to check that you are breathing abdominally. Your chest should be still while you are practising abdominal breathing.

1. Ensure that you’re sitting comfortably or lying on a bed.

2. Breathe in through the nose for 4 counts. (Say in your mind In..2…3…4)

3. Don’t hold the breath- keep it flowing

4. Breathe out through the nose slowly for 6 counts (Say in your mind Out…2….3….4…5…6

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 10

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

5. Then gently move to breathing in again.

6. Repeat minimum 10 times. Morning and night is a great time to practise, or when you’re in the car waiting for an appointment, a train or kids at school. Although we have used counting in this self-guided meditation, (for personal use and for teaching clients) I would recommend you keep counting to a minimum when guiding meditation for a group. Other techniques such as visualization are more effective than counting as it’s quite difficult for the participant to keep up with the facilitator’s breathing speed. It is best to give instructions, and then leave a short space of time for the participant to do the breathing, giving general instructions and encouragement, rather than counting with the group as they breathe. Moving Meditation and Sound Meditation such as walking or chanting also works very well for clients with anxiety. For at risk clients, there are particular types of meditation that are more suitable.

• Positive, creative and energized visualizations (not too long) • Gentle relaxation that includes positive creative visualization (combined) • Mindfulness Meditation that promotes observation of thoughts and feelings and

being in the present moment rather than delving into insight and feeling. • Moving Meditations • Meditations involving animal therapy (contact and close interaction with animals) • Meditations in nature • Sound Meditations • Meditations that call on spiritual support and guidance, if this fits with the client’s

belief system, as this helps the client connect with a more powerful and positive aspect of them rather than the aspect of them that feels wounded or traumatised.

The aim with these clients is to uplift, inspire, energise and relax with positive mind food. Keep it light, positive and in higher thinking. In all cases, someone suffering from anxiety or depression should also be receiving professional psychological support. Meditation can be wonderful as a complementary practice but should not be the only form of support that the client is receiving. Clients should also inform their treating professional that they are undertaking meditation. You also have the comprehensive referral list that you created in session 6.

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 11

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Supporting clients in challenging situations

For this section I consulted Ken Mellor; author, spiritual mentor and meditation master who has published numerous works in professional journals, magazines and online. Ken was a founding board member of the Meditation Association of Australia. He is experienced in running meditation and spiritual development groups, retreats and workshops around the world and is an experienced psychotherapist. I conducted a set of interviews with Ken to discern the keys to handling challenging situations when conducting groups. Some of the issues described may not feel relevant right now, but having this knowledge at hand can help you deal with the unexpected should it arise. Many people suffering from mental illness are drawn to meditation as a means for drug free relief and calm. Rather than becoming daunted or worried about someone who has a diagnosis, it can work better to manage the symptoms, situations and people at face value. Some people may attend your groups and you may never know that they have a diagnosis since it is their choice whether they decide to share this information with you. So as a general attitude it can be helpful to move away from the mental illness label. As a meditation teacher you are not expected to understand the kinds of mental illnesses that can be diagnosed. However, you do need to be alert to anyone (with or without a diagnosis) who appears to be:

• very emotionally upset • withdrawn • combative/argumentative • don’t make sense • angry • very frightened • agitated • talking very quickly, anxious, tense, hyped up • Behaving in a disruptive way or a way that is uncharacteristic of them such as

looking flat and depressed when they are usually not like this. • Depressed and starting to limit what they do in their lives. They might be hinting or

talking about wanting to kill themselves or wanting to be dead. These people need to be referred to someone immediately.

• Tense, fidgeting, spacing out, getting restless.

Sometimes there can be a group theme. If so, it can be good to open up a discussion. Start with asking how everyone is going at the moment?

If you are concerned, don’t wait for people to volunteer, just go around the group and offer each person the opportunity to share. If something obvious and unusual is happening – cut across to the relevant person and then come back. Remember it’s not your job to provide people with therapy or any kind of diagnosis, though it’s important that you refer them to someone who can.

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 12

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

The first step is to recognise it. From time to time people may experience some fear or anxiety when they begin something new such as regular meditation. This can sometimes explain unusual behaviour, but if in doubt, or if it appears to be more serious than that, then refer to a professional. If the person is experiencing a major life challenge, ask them about what’s going on and find out whether they need additional support. If so, refer them to a good counsellor or psychologist. Students often ask if they should ask participants for information about any mental illness. There may be people who have a diagnosis such as extreme anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, ADHD or are on the autism spectrum. It can be counterproductive to identify people by their label. The label isn’t particularly useful to a meditation teacher. In terms of our relationship with the person, we need to look behind the diagnosis at what is happening for the person and their meditation experience and whether they are coping or not in quite specific terms. Are they enjoying the meditation and deriving benefit from it? What kinds of problems are they experiencing if any? How to cope with a participant who appears disturbed

• Talk to them • Ask open ended questions that encourage them to think and reflect, so that they

can think about what’s going on. E.g. are there any feelings or patterns of thinking that you don’t find helpful?

• Stay relaxed, open and receptive. Talk in a way that is soft and available – not hard edged. Our physical resonance affects others and they may respond in the same way. We want to be easy, accepting, relaxed and open to communication.

• In regards to any unusual or worrying thoughts and behaviours ask - have you spoken to anyone about that?

• Observe what is happening with them and help them get back into balance. If they are available to it, take them through an open eyed grounding (you could take the whole group through the exercise at the same time). If their feelings are very intense, such as an anxiety attack, use their five senses to link them to external stimuli e.g. sensation of their feet against the floor, clothing on their skin, objects they can see, feel, touch etc. It can help to recognise and match their representational system e.g. visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. If a person is visual you might refer to visual cues to ground them, with auditory person sound is effective. If you’re not sure, use all three. If people are held by external circumstances, that is they are looping or stuck in the story about what is happening externally then take their focus inside to their inner sensations during a grounding experience and their focus off the externals.

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 13

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Safety issues As a basic boundary, if you are working from home, then you should not see people or run groups when you are alone and where there is no-one else to support you. If someone is potentially assaultive, you shouldn’t see them without someone else close by. You need a system so someone else can come in immediately if needed. Have precautions in place that are adequate for dealing with people who are acting out or potentially physically assaultive, such as people with an ice problem. When we are working alone we need to strongly vet people and not take risks, Safety is paramount; safety for you, your students and the person involved. Don’t knowingly have someone who is violent come and attend your groups. A simple thing to say to people when in doubt is: “My classes are full; I don’t have any extra spaces for you at this stage.” A new group Things to keep in mind when conducting meditation for a new group or an unknown group:

• Stick to the grounding, relaxation and short SIC stages. • Don’t teach something you haven’t yet mastered. Stay with something familiar or

that you don’t need to think too hard about. • Never pretend to know something you don’t know. • People may have their own expectations of what they think you should know, but

that’s about them; not you. Teach things that you have solidly integrated into your own practice and life.

• Make contracts or group agreements about the rules of conduct for a group. Within that context there may be individual agreements about what people are there to learn or to change. A contract or group agreement provides psychological structure about how people are expected to behave and what they’re going to be doing. Keep alert and if someone is being quiet, ask them how they are going in relation to their goal. Doing that provides structure for each person, and this allows them to stay settled.

• Be prepared to look at the mirror being presented to you as a facilitator from the members of your group. There will be 20 aspects of you looking back at you in the group. Feeling aversive or annoyed by someone? Ask yourself which aspect of you is being triggered or reflected back to you and address it either in your journalling time and/or in your supervision sessions. You are all drawn together for a reason!

In the case of psychotic experiences If someone moves into some sort of psychotic process where you can tell they’re not grounded or if they appear delusional (this is hard to define and can easily be misunderstood.) If they faint, start to get very highly charged, angry or frightened. Stop and deal with it.

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Certificate in Guiding and Teaching Meditation – Session 7 Group Facilitation Skills 14

© 2017 Lisa Forde & Australian Centre for Holistic Studies

Talk very calmly in a normal voice (not anxious) and you might say something like “You’re looking fairly uncomfortable at the moment. Just tell me what’s happening.” “Come here and sit beside me while were talking to the others and feel your bottom on the ground.” (Place your hands on their shoulder to help them get grounded if they are someone you know). Anxiety and fear is a response to loss of structure. Meditation can do that since it can bring up latent fear. Sitting beside a person can provide structure. Talking quietly about what’s happening can be calming. When we are anxious we may find that we tend to “parent” people, which may trigger them further. So be relaxed and talk normally and calmly. Don’t ask questions, make statements instead. This is important. Questions take people out of their feelings. E.g. a statement such as “How about you tell me what’s happening or when you started feeling like that.” or a reflective statement such as “you look upset, tell me about it.” You will need to make arrangements manage the rest of the group whilst you attend to this person. Try and handle things within the group if possible so that they don’t feel too singled out. If they require individual attention, have a break and handle it then. If meditation is what is triggering the episode then stop the meditation. Most often the problem is pre-existing. Meditation relaxes people and allows them to begin to open up to what’s there – so anything can come up. We deal with it in a practical way that is sensitive whilst taking responsibility for their safety and wellbeing. We aim for an outcome where this person understands what is happening for them and can leave the group setting without serious cause for concern. Always make sure they are ok before they leave. So in summary some simple strategies are:

• Ground people by connecting them to their senses and body. (This might mean taking them through a simple open-eye grounding sequence.)

• Compassionate talking support • Referrals (you will prepare a referral list later in this session) • Make sure they’re ok before they leave. • If the meditation is what is triggering them then stop the meditation

It’s important to have first aid training when facilitating any kind of group.

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How to manage when a participant is having a negative impact on the group For example if someone keeps interrupting. Address it in the moment in a gentle but clear tone. Here are some possibilities for how to address things:

• Joe what you’ve just done is something you’ve done a few times already – tell me what was going on for you.

• I’m wondering if you are aware that your interrupted Jan who hasn’t finished

talking yet.

• I’d like you to spend some time being aware of what you say to people and when you say it.

• Hold on to your thoughts and feelings for a moment, I’ll come back to you in a

little while.

• Be aware of any tendency you have to interrupt someone who’s talking.

• Use positive rather than negative language. Don’t say “don’t interrupt” rather “Please let Jan speak.”

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FAQ’s for running meditation groups When we begin working with groups we invite lots of growth for ourselves. Being in a group as a participant or facilitator can challenge the roles we have learnt to play, and in this session we have done some work on becoming more aware of those roles. There are some common problems that have relatively simple answers. These are all real questions that students have asked in group forums in the past. Participant who lingers and won’t leave when the session is over.

• Be firm but kind in your tone and approach • Use the summarizing skill. Sum up what they have been talking about so they

know that you have been listening and then close with a statement about what you have to do next, or a positive statement about where they are heading as you usher them out the door.

• Don’t be afraid to be blunt if they are crossing your boundaries. • Organise for someone else to stay behind and usher them along. • Do not stay back alone with them.

Participant who talks through the silences

• If you are comfortable with silence, then eventually your group will learn to do so as well. It’s ok for everyone to go through a learning stage when it comes to embracing new behaviours.

• Issue a gentle reminder, ..this is our silent time…be silent…. This is better said in the moment where possible. Try not to make it a big issue.

• If you can sense discomfort and tension, you can break this with some gentle, whispered words…gently…quietly….calm…..feel the silence…or something like that, depending on the context.

• Re-iterate group agreements

What happens if you find you make strong connection with someone in the group? Are you able to form a friendship outside the group or do you keep it business like?

• This is really your personal choice and depends on your ability to maintain the friendship despite the challenges that may arise through navigating both a personal and professional relationship.

• It may also depend on the context of the group and any protocols around this. E.g. is it your own group or are you working for an organisation?

Should you encourage participants to forge friendships through the group?

• Again this is really up to the participants and something outside of your realm of control.

• I have found that participants often request a contact list for the group. So you might like to create this as long as participation is voluntary and they are under no obligation to be on the list.

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• Knowing that meditation groups can be a social outlet for people, friendships that come from your group amongst likeminded people can be a really positive thing.

What are some ways to deal with nerves as a facilitator when first starting a group or if you’ve had a very bad day?

• Go for a brisk walk or do some physical exercise beforehand • Have a meditation script or point form outline prepared beforehand so that you

make it really easy for yourself. You won’t need this forever; it can just be a gentle way to start off.

• Do a guided relaxation or some deep breathing • Use positive affirmations to address your fears • Remind yourself what fun this is and what a great job you have, smile a lot and

find ways to enjoy the experience. • Allow the group sharing to take place in pairs rather than having the focus on you

as the discussion facilitator. • Conduct the meditation that YOU need for the group (and you will enjoy the

benefits!) • Receive supervision support if your nerves become more than a temporary

inconvenience. • Ground yourself • Come back to why you wanted to become a meditation teacher in the first place.

This can help you connect to your greater purpose (you could journal about this) and help you get over the trappings of the ego.

What to do if a participant is dominating the group discussion and not allowing other people time to speak?

• You might have some group agreements/boundaries which you can state to the group, have on the wall, or reiterate when it’s needed and remind people of them.

• Use a talking stick if there is someone who dominates too much. With a talking stick only the person holding the stick may talk.

• These are 2 simple ways, if the person continues to break these boundaries. 1. Address them directly in the group (such as in the example in this session about Joe and Jan) or 2. Talk to them afterwards about the importance of adhering to group agreements.

• You can also design some meditations around the issue of feeling heard.

How do you know what sort of meditation you should be creating for a group of students that is relatively unknown to you?

• Survey them to find out how much experience they have and what kind of meditation they would like. This could be just a few questions at the start of the session or allowing some time for group sharing to find out where people are at before the meditation begins.

• Start with a basic meditation that focusses on the grounding and relaxation stages. Introduce a technique if you want but stick to the earlier stages and keep it basic. They will soon tell you (and you will gauge) when they are ready for more.

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What can you do if you have someone in your meditation group who has severe emotional problems, or problems relating to the physical body or with anything else which come from childhood issues?

• Refer them to counselling (You create a referral list in this session). • Use reflective listening statements when they speak to you. • Keep the meditations around the topic very gentle and nurturing. Eg. body based

meditations for the person who has difficulty relating to the body. • Check in with them at the end of the session (before they leave)

How should you handle it if someone has an emotional response to your meditation, or if simply the act of meditating causes them to have a spontaneous emotional reaction?

• If the meditation triggers something for them, remember the issue was already there, you didn’t put it there with your meditation, so don’t blame yourself. Often it’s better that the issue comes to the surface so it can be dealt with, rather than remaining hidden where it’s only causing damage by being denied and coming out in less controlled ways. Eg. passive aggression or sarcasm.

• Don’t jump in straight away and hand them a tissue. Leave it a minute or two and place the tissues nearby so they know they are there and can choose when to take them. Handing them a tissue too quickly can be interpreted as “I need to mop up and shut up”.

• Allow silence and remind others in the group to honour whatever they are feeling in response to what others are saying. This encourages acknowledgement of the ‘mirroring’ in groups, relationships and life in general.

• Don’t smother them with well-meaning hugs or too many words. Simply allow them the space to cry. A supportive hand on the back or just behind the back and simply sitting in silence with them is what they most likely need. This allows them time to process their feelings without rushing.

• This is a good time to use the reflecting feelings skill. • You may like to bring in the support of the group by harnessing the loving

intention of the group energy and sending it to the person in need. • Acknowledge the person and thank them for sharing with the group. • If needed, give the group an exercise to do in pairs and attend to the person

needing help • Use your referral list. • Check in that they are ok before they leave. Provide any resources for further

support before they leave.

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I have started running a group whilst studying. My students are beginners, but when the meditation is over, they don’t seem to have any awarenesses about their experience. They just seem to go through the motions of it and seem to enjoy the process but when I ask them if they want to share they talk about the meditation but nothing about personal awareness. Is that normal?

• Some people are not used to thinking that way, delving that deeply or being self aware.

• If this is something you want to develop in your group – think of some more direct and specific questions rather than leaving things open – eg when you entered the forest what were your feelings? Perhaps prepare the questions or if conducting spontaneous meditation, write them down in their reflective time after the meditation.

• It may be a new group and people may not be comfortable divulging this level of information, so be patient and give them time.

• If the people know each other socially, they may not want to divulge information. You will need to respect that.

• Are you prepared for the group to be just a positive experience – or do you want more? If you want more – then start gearing the group towards this, but be patient and expect it to be gradual.

• You may need to accept that the way the group is meets their needs and that is ok.

I find that my breathing is probably 2-3 times slower than most people's (maybe because I'm very fit), but the slowness in my breath means that, I find it VERY hard to 'track along' with the instructions of a Meditation.

• Can you take one breath – to their 2 breaths – adapt yourself. • Don’t follow theirs – follow your own rhythm, • This brings up an interesting point. I don’t think that guiding people with their

breath – particularly when to breathe in and out works very well in guided meditation. What works best is to give the instruction – then leave time for people to do the breathing at a pace that suits them. I find mine goes from fast to slow as I focus and relax more. Everyone has a different breathing rate so it’s kind of ridiculous to guide people through individual breaths. So this is a great learning for all of us!! Breathing is really important part of meditation and a great way to start all meditations. Breathing can be the feature of a whole meditation, and you can do it without guiding individual breaths. I’ve found when students create meditations where every breath is guided; it can become very difficult to follow. As it easily gets out of sync. So give one or 2 guided breaths at the start, simply for instructional purposes, then let people do it at their own pace.

• This shouldn’t affect yourself guided meditation (personal practise) as you can follow your own pace there.

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If a participant nods off during a meditation, and I know that is ok, can one assume then, that you are having a desired effect i.e. they are so relaxed they fall asleep…if they do start to snore, if you move to nudge them, won’t you disrupt the whole class, so how do you do this effectively?

• If they have fallen asleep then they may be too tired to meditate – the need for sleep generally overrides the need for meditation and can hamper meditation – so it may be they are just getting what they need most. During discussion time you might open up the conversation of how tired they feel and briefly address lifestyle balance.

• Taking some deep breaths (perhaps outside in the fresh air) should wake them up so that they can participate more effectively.

• If they snore and it’s quite loud then walk over and touch them gently on the hand or shoulder to rouse them out of it. Don’t let them disturb others.

• There is also the possibility that they may not be falling asleep. They may be slumping because they have moved into an altered state of consciousness. During sharing time it may be wise to probe a little about their experience. You might ask what the internal signal is that they are about to do this. eg. tired or something else they notice. Question them with words such as..."tell me what's happening inside you when you fall into this state", “have you been very tired?” Use common sensical exploration of what is going on. If you suspect that this may be an altered state then you should go and interrupt them during their unconscious period. When we get into an altered state we can become less aware of our body and things like slumping forward can happen. However, it is best to stay aware as much as possible during meditation – since we are trying to cultivate awareness, so be very gentle and touch them on the shoulder whispering to them something like "how about you sit up?" Whether they are sleeping or in an altered state, waking them very gently and sensitively is the preferred option.

• There is a possibility that such behaviour may be due to another problem such as a neurological disorder or a severe energy or lifestyle imbalance that needs addressing. Be prepared to refer in this case to the GP, a psychologist or counsellor as appropriate. The correct referral can be discerned through further discussion and probing.

I have been asked to take a mediation class at a retreat I am attending…when I am talking to myself about my confidence, I am ok, but when something like this opportunity eventuates, I go to pieces, even though I am flattered that I should be asked. Would you suggest to “go for it”?

If you are really nervous then make it really easy for yourself

• Use a script. Practise it • Record it and listen back so you are sure of the pace (we tend to go to fast when

we read)

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• If it still feels too daunting, then you’re not ready, but if you possibly can- then do it – you will probably surprise yourself.

• It’s ok to be nervous – this is what happens when we challenge ourselves and it’s part of our growth. There’s no growth in your comfort zone.

I am anxious about how I would lead a class which has: a) people who have limited time b) the inability to surrender to the moment.

a) People who have limited time.

• Presumably there would be a start and end time to your class so for that time those people are yours and time would be less of an issue.

• Regarding their home practise. It’s not your responsibility to ensure they succeed. It’s theirs and it takes time and patience. Most people won’t get it straight away and this is no reflection on you as a meditation teacher. It’s the nature of meditation and this is the reason that I promote visualization and relaxation as an effective method for beginners. I believe that giving beginners advanced techniques such as stillness practices can be counterproductive.

• Give them plenty of intellectual information – such as information about the benefits of meditation and scientific evidence. If you are working with a corporate group they may need some intellectual food to win them over.

• If teaching home meditation techniques ask them to start with 5 mins a day- perhaps recommend a 21 day plan to get them started and keep it simple with only 1 or 2 techniques. Make any home program manageable and provide follow up along the way in your sharing time.

b) The inability to surrender to the moment

• This develops with time and practise and it’s ok if they don’t get it the first time – take that pressure off yourself. Don’t be invested in their outcome as this is not a skill that many people will get first time round. Lower your expectations and don’t take it on board if not everyone gets it because they may not.

• Engage them with technique they really enjoy. That way they are more likely to persist and reach deeper stages.

• Relaxation can help with this as can doing creative and enjoyable hobbies that help people let go. Laughter clubs and exercise can also be effective.

• Meditating more often and gradually increasing length of time can help. • Listening to guided audios can help.

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When organising discussion questions – if you do this beforehand how do you know they will be relevant for that day and group – would you just have lots of questions on hand and pick one or a few that are relevant on the day?

Have a fall back plan and then do whatever feels right on the night. You might start by falling back on your plan often and then eventually become more fluid. Don’t be hard on yourself.

I had an experience in a group where I had two people who voiced very opposite needs. One wanted to be walked through with very little space and the other wanted me to be less descriptive as I was making him lose his train of thought and interrupting his flow with my descriptions. I can see this is what I attracted however it was baffling at the time and I wonder if we could talk about balancing this.

• Sometimes what people want isn’t necessarily what they need. Wanting to be guided with very little space may be indicative of someone who does not have a strong positive adult, they may have the tendency to feel helpless and unable to take the reins of their own life. On the other hand, someone who wants a lot of freedom in meditation may have difficulty surrendering to another and may have difficulty trusting in relationships, always wanting to be in control. So…stick with the middle ground and you will be role modelling moderation and balance. Don’t try and please everyone. Listen and think about the feedback but be aware that you don’t have to necessarily take it all on board if it doesn’t feel right. Always check in with yourself or a mentor before making any big changes.

• The obvious answer here is what you have already mentioned – moderation and balance.

• The fact that you witnessed 2 opposite points of view to me indicates you should listen to neither and wait to see what else unfolds. If the feedback was predominantly one way eg. everyone saying you were moving too fast, then it would be sensible to listen.

• Ask others in the group what they think to get more information.

If you are starting out on your very first meditation group as a presenter (and you are relatively inexperienced) would it be a good idea to start your first group as a ‘free – no cost’ group, to possibly avoid the situation where there may be people attending who have decades of experience in these types of classes?

• Experience is a funny thing in meditation. Someone may have loads of experience in a particular kind of meditation – but not the one you teach. Welcome people with experience and invite them to share their knowledge with the group if appropriate. But don’t be afraid of them.

• The best way to gain experience in meditation – is to meditate! If you have a strong daily practise then you will have enough experience to guide others.

• Remember at the end of the day you are conducting a gathering where people are simply getting together to meditate. Don’t buy into the cultural belief that those

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with more knowledge are superior or have more to offer. We are a society of educated derelicts. Many people have loads of knowledge but have never applied it. This is why if you are applying your knowledge through your daily practise then you are 10 steps ahead of someone who has loads of knowledge but doesn’t apply it. Let go of the belief that you need to be a guru and see yourself as someone offering your space for people to meditate in. Don’t try to be a know all and you won’t be accused of not knowing enough. Believe in yourself, be humble and know that you are enough. Stick to teaching what you best understand.

• You could offer people a trial session before they signed up by the term. That way they could try out the style of meditation that I offer and decide if it suited them or not. But that was the only freebie I offered right from the start. As a meditation teacher you do not need to know about all kinds of meditation – just the kinds that you choose to teach.

• You will be amazed when you run your case study sessions how much people enjoy guided meditations and this will really boost your confidence when it comes to getting out there as a teacher.

What is a good starting price to charge people once I get my group going? I'm not really sure what is fair or what is the normal range.

• Do some research as to what comparable activities are available in your area eg. yoga classes, dance classes and this will give you some idea as to what people are used to paying. In my area - yoga classes are charged at between $18-22 so I would charge that too. It also depends how long your class runs for, how many attend, what your venue costs are and who your target market is.

• Ask yourself what YOU are comfortable charging. You must feel comfortable with what you are charging.

• Honour your time, training and abilities by charging. • And then make a decision based on all these factors. Once you are established

you can ask people to pay by the term. As I mentioned earlier you may like to give people a free trial class to begin, or offer a casual rate.

How long does everyone allow for a class? i.e. 1 hour with say a 30 minute meditation and 30 mins chat/sharing time or longer say hour and half with longer meditation or chat/share time?

• It really depends on how many in your group and how chatty they are, whether you want to allow discussion time before and after meditation and whether you provide an activity after meditation.

• Your case studies are a great opportunity to test out some ideas and therefore get a gauge of how long you need.

• I have found that over time the needs of the group change. However if you are renting a premises you might need to be aware of time restrictions and costs.

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• Start with an hour. It will be an hour or 90 mins depending on how chatty the group gets and whether you want to do an additional activity – if so make it 90 mins. The longer you run, the more you will need to charge. 1 hr is a do-able time for most people and keeps the cost down.

Do you have a tip for handling nerves coming up to the class? I tend to arrange a class on a weekly basis and then want to cancel because I get nervous being booked in to a particular date and, because I’m the teacher, I’m not able to cancel.

This is understandable and we ALL have nerves!

• Accept that they are a part of speaking in front of others and that they go with the territory and are normal.

• Talk about it and share the feelings with a counsellor, a teacher a trusted friend. Don’t let it fester and grow.

• Do lots of relaxation through the week. Listening to guided relaxation is great for nerves.

• Do some work on the specific issues that arise. Write down your fears and then create affirmations based on the opposite belief and listen to these at least twice a day. For example: I am afraid I will stuff up my words – I speak beautifully and clearly I am afraid my meditation won’t be good enough – I am good enough I am afraid that people in the class will know more than me – I know everything I need to know for today.

• Make the class easier for yourself. Write down and practise your meditation beforehand. Make sharing in pairs rather than as a whole group.

• Feel the fear but run the class anyway! You will feel so good after running the class that this will be a motivating memory if nerves return before the next class.

All these activities are to support you in getting started. After a while you won’t need them anymore. But accept that at the start you will require some extra support and give yourself what you need. You will then feel much more comfortable.


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