Reflective Practice Group: A Facilitator’s Guide

Last September I decided to step away from the reflective practice group I had been organizing since 2012. It was time to focus my energy elsewhere. In order to help my colleagues take over, I created this guide. I thought it might also be helpful to others as well. Enjoy!

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Below you will find helpful information for coordinating and facilitating a reflective practice group meeting. If this is your first time coordinating or facilitating, I recommend reading the listed blog posts:

When leading a session, there are few elements to be aware of:

  • Participants and prospective participants
  • Facilitating the meeting from the beginning to the end of the meeting
  • Choosing and facilitating the topic of the meeting
  • Advertising each meeting
  • Location
  • Sharing and recording what has been discussed at the meeting

You will find more details about each element below.

Participants and prospective participants

As this is an open group, new members may attend. This is why we usually start a session with an icebreaker. In order to help them feel welcome to the group, it can be helpful to explain the aim of the group, and maybe just have a brief chat about what a typical meeting looks like. Anything you can do to help newcomers feel welcome and at ease will be great. The idea is that we want to make them feel included. Since many members have been attending for quite a while, a newcomer may feel out of place. Helping ease this sense will support them in coming back.

Here are a few things to consider prior to a meeting in case a new participant attends:

  • What will you share about the group?
  • What will you say to help them familiarize themselves?
  • What will you ask from them? (why are they here, what they would like?)
  • Asking for their contact information so you can share information about future meetings
  • Helping them access the Facebook group
Facilitating from the beginning to the end of the meeting

The most important role of the facilitator is to help keep the discussion going. In order to do this, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Remember your goal, but remain open – What do you want members to leave the meeting with? A skill? Knowledge?  Stay focused on your goal. If you notice the meeting is going in another direction, try to bring it back. However, don’t be so strict that you ignore valuable learning moments. A good RP meeting is one that helps people think and grow, and sometimes that means throwing away your plan.
  • Getting the meeting started –
    • It’s easy for members to get wrapped up in small talk at the beginning of a meeting. Remember that they came to talk about the topic you planned. Be gently assertive and start the meeting. Everyone is with you. Some language to help them get started might be:
      • If everyone is here, let’s get started.  
      • Feel free to come and go to get your drink (coffee/tea) or to get settled. We will begin introductions now….
    • Ice breaker and names – a simple ice-breaker that doesn’t take much time is to ask members to share their favorite (choose a topic). For example, you may ask them to share their favorite drink or animal… Don’t spend too much time on the icebreaker because the content of the meeting is the juicy part.
    • Presenting the agenda
    • Dealing with goals – you may want members to share how they did with the goals they set during the last meeting. However, you may want to wait until the end of the meeting to discuss this as well.
  • Grouping – Depending on the size of the group, this may involve creating small groups, or pairing off people. If the group is large, you may want to opt out of joining discussion groups so you can take notes and focus on how the discussions are going.
  • Stopping discussions – It can be hard to stop a juicy discussion, but discussions have to stop at some point. Before starting discussions, it can be helpful to inform members how you will ask them to stop talking. This can be especially helpful if you have a larger group. You may want to raise your hand, clap, or remind everyone they have a minute to wrap up.
  • Asking people to share what they discussed in groups or not (you may not have time to share with the large group) – After small group discussions, you may want to get a summary of what each group discussed so ideas can be shared with the large group. This is a good way to bring everyone together, and increase insight and understanding
  • Watching the clock – make sure you have enough time to do everything you planned. This includes the icebreaker, discussions, and the wrap-up at the end.
  • Ending the meeting – Here are a few things to consider for the end of the meeting
    • Asking members to share their RP goals. This may be new goals or you may want them to share progress on old one.
    • open a request for facilitators for future meetings
    • Talk about date of the next meeting
Choosing the topic of the meeting

It can be helpful to have the topic of the next meeting already decided so that you can share it at the end of the meeting. This will help members work on and think about the topic during the weeks in between meetings.

Advertising each meeting

Send a group email (remember to BCC the list) to members at least a week before the meeting. It’s a good idea to create a Facebook group, and to create an event within the group for each meeting as this sends a direct message to group members.

Information to be included:

  • Date
  • Hours
  • Location and directions to the location
  • A brief abstract of the topic and what you expect members to do before or during the meeting
  • Your contact information in case people can’t find the location on the day of the meeting
Location

A quiet space at a central location is preferable. It can also be helpful to have a space with a white board and larger tables. Privacy is also ideal.

Sharing and recording what has been discussed at the meeting

How do we share and record what we do?

It is a good idea to share as a way of keeping the community connected throughout the month, but this is up to you.

Links I have found useful along the way

Below are links to resources that have helped me in teaching English as a second language, and in teaching teachers. I hope they are of service to you too.

If you have any suggestions for links to add to categories that exist, or don’t yet, please comment below.


*Topics are in alphabetical order.

Adult Learning Theory

Assessment

Body Language

Teacher burnout (2015)

Job Satisfaction

Cognates

Cognitive skills

Communication

Nonverbal

Miscommunication

Community (dynamics and rhythms)

Classroom Community

Communities of Practice

“…communities of practice are everywhere. They are a familiar experience, so familiar perhaps that it often escapes our attention. Yet when it is given a name and brought into focus, it becomes a perspective that can help us understand our world better. In particular, it allows us to see past more obvious formal structures such as organizations, classrooms, or nations, and perceive the structures defined by engagement in practice and the informal learning that comes with it.”

“The term community of practice was coined to refer to the community that acts as a living curriculum for the apprentice.”

Competence

Complexity Theory

Corpus

Critical Incidents

Critical reading and thinking

Cuisenaire Rods

Culture

Crosscultural Misunderstandings

Deductive learning (see Inductive learning)

Discussions (facilitating discussions)

Ecological Approach

Emotions

Emotional intelligence

Emotions and language

Neuroscience

Empowerment

English (lingua franca, international, dialects…)

Experiential Learning Cycle

Feedback

Writing

Fluency and Coherence (Speaking)

Focus on form

Goals

Grammar (with bonus humor because we all need to lighten up about grammar)

Adverbs

Adjectives

Complement

Function words

Object

Direct

Object Complement

Operators (do, do, do…because we always need a little back-up when being negative, inquisitive, or emphatic)

Particles (pesky little things)

Phrasal verbs (all of them…the ones that love splitting too)

Predicate (no use in denying this part of this sentence. It’s affirmed and here to stay)

Prepositional phrase (wordy adjectives or adverbs)

Sentences

Speaking

Symbols

Verbs

Ice-breakers

Inductive and deductive learning

Integrated skills

Learning-centered education

Learning Challenges (Disabilities)

Learning Modalities

Lexical Approach

Lexis

Listening

Listening (Good listeners)

Phonology and phonetics

Presentation Skills

Correlations

General

Informal and formal (politeness)

Interviews

Phrases

Questions

Surveys

Survey results

Pronunciation

Reading Skills

Receptive skills (Listening & reading)

Reflective Practice

Self and others

By telling others how we feel and other information about ourselves we reduce the hidden area, and increase the open area, which enables better understanding, cooperation, trust, team-working effectiveness and productivity. Reducing hidden areas also reduces the potential for confusion, misunderstanding, poor communication, etc, which all distract from and undermine team effectiveness.

Organizational culture and working atmosphere have a major influence on group members’ preparedness to disclose their hidden selves. Most people fear judgement or vulnerability and therefore hold back hidden information and feelings, etc, that if moved into the open area, ie known by the group as well, would enhance mutual understanding, and thereby improve group awareness, enabling better individual performance and group effectiveness.”

As with feedback, some people are more resilient than others – care needs to be taken to avoid causing emotional upset.”

*I can see this as a useful tool for trainers to use when considering the progress of a course, and the various group dynamics at play.

Social Change/Justice

 

Task-based Language Teaching (Dogme?)

Team-building

Young Learners

 

Tearing down my own big picture – #MatMoments

Your life should reach to others. Your blissfulness, your benediction, your ecstasy should not be contained within you like a seed. It should open like a flower and spread its fragrance to all and sundry–not only to the friends but to the strangers too. This is real compassion, this is real love: sharing your enlightenment, sharing your dance of the beyond. – Osho

A few Saturdays ago, I realized again, as if for the first time, that my blissfulness revolves around contemplating and dwelling in the big picture. And then on Sunday morning the “Flowering” tarot card reminded me why this is an important truth to honour.

When I’m contemplating life’s big questions — What is the authentic self? How does this impact the world around me? How can we have a more positive impact, and what can I create to help others see they can also have a positive impact? — I’m in flow; I’m dancing. And when I’m dancing, I know I’m spreading seeds joy instead of fear. But for some reason, I judge this part of myself. (For more on the inner life of big picture thinkers, check out 15 Struggles Only Big-Picture Thinkers Will Understand)

Then on that Saturday, I realized why.

Saturdays are devoted to a yoga leadership course at the Ayurveda Yoga Academy in Daegu, South Korea. Morning sessions are focused on learning and practicing various types of healing therapies, and afternoon sessions are focused on yoga philosophy and practice. In between sessions, a few of us yogis drove off for a rare South East Asian lunch, where we had a short, yet impactful conversation that would set the tone for the next twenty-four hours.

While waiting for phở to be delivered, we discussed our interest in practicing Family Constellations Therapy during a morning session. I mentioned my curiosity in using it to heal the polarizing pain that is being caused by the political climate, particularly in the United States and South Korea. I realize that this modality is related to healing personal wounds, but with all the turmoil I noticed in my Korean friends, and of course all the trepidation I see on social media around the Trump presidency, it seemed that many individuals in our group could use an intervention of sorts.

At this point my lunch partners noted how they saw me as someone who seems to be quite concerned with the world at large, or in other words, someone who sees the big picture first. My initial reaction was to get defensive — “Of course I’m concerned with what’s going on in the world! It’s horrible. We all need to do what we can to heal this.”– but I didn’t say anything. I decided to wait and listen to what else they had to say.

I expected to hear a “yeah but…”. I expected them to tell me to get real. I thought they were going to tell me I was wrong for wanting so much.  But that didn’t happen. Instead, they reflected the light they saw shining within me. They encouraged me to honour this truth that is bubbling up and see where it takes me.

I was relieved, and grateful to hear this. My shoulders relaxed, I smiled, thanked them for seeing my truth, and took another bite of my pad thai.

Then back at the yoga studio, during the afternoon demo-class, it hit me: the only “yeah buts” that were stopping me were my own. I’ve defended my big picture thinking many times in my past. I’ve been told I’m a dreamer and an optimist, and these never felt like compliments. I’ve been told to come down from the clouds and get back to reality. The thing is, I don’t connect having a sense of hope as being a Pollyanna. I actually believe, and feel in my gut, that this is the most realistic perspective we can hold.

But what I realized on my yoga mat that afternoon is that although those judgments may have come from other people, they were actually beliefs I held. I was buying into those opinions. Deep down I thought there was something wrong with my hopeful outlook. I thought I should tone it down, and only share it with people who can handle it. Otherwise, I’d have to put my “yeah but” defence gear, which includes an ability to tolerate cynicism and a heavy dose of doubt.

Maybe this is the case for all big picture thinkers. Perhaps the fear of being ridiculed and misunderstood for seeing things as they could be and not as they are holds many of us back. The sad thing is that when we worry about judgments, and fear not being taken seriously, we dim the light within.

But thanks to my dear friends, and my practice, I am starting to see there is nothing to fix; there is nothing to change; there is nothing to defend.

Being true to this part of myself is a constant practice. It requires honouring what helps me connect the dots to the larger picture: yoga, tarot, noticing beauty, noting synchronicities, and my studies of A Course in Miracles.

These practices help me paint my own big picture, and keep me from tearing it down.


You can find the #Truthbomb Card Deck pictures above at www.daniellelaporte.com.

Choosing Happiness?

“How can we be happy?” asked Wonjangnim.

“When we’re in the moment,” I responded. But that was only after I had processed a silent emotional roller coaster ride on my yoga mat.

Not long before he had asked this, I desperately raised my hand, wanting an answer no matter how silly my question sounded.

“How do we know we’re happy?”

“You just know. You’re either happy or you’re not. You just choose in the moment.”

A wave of sadness came over me. Tears started to well.

If he had asked me how I felt at the beginning of class, when he was asking everyone else, I would have replied, “Happily relaxed.”

But now the realization hit me in the heart: I so often seem to choose anxiety and disappointment.

Then, came grief. All the time I’ve wasted. All those moments I chose to over-analyze every.little.thing. All those moments: gone.

But then again, what was he talking about? Choosing happiness didn’t feel like a choice at all! How annoying that he thinks we can choose! Come on. Really?

And as that angry thought was crossing my mind, he asked, “How can we be happy?”

It was clear as day.

I raised my hand again, “When we’re in the moment.”

The sadness was gone. The grief was gone. The anger was gone. I came back to a relaxed, happy state.

“That’s right. You have to choose. You have to answer like that,” Wonjangnim remarked.

And this is why we come to yoga. This is why we do things we love: because before a certain, point we don’t really have a choice. We are led and directed by habit and conditioning. We can’t help it.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be different.

Keep feeling. Keep watching. Keep letting go. Come back. Choose happiness.


*I dedicate this post to my dear friend and yogini sister, Michelle D’Almeida. Not only is she a good friend, but she’s also a precious teacher. On this Friday I learned a lot about the power of feeling your feelings through her courage to feel, watch, let go, and come back. Thank you for being real and raw, my dear. Your courage is contagious. Never forget this.

*Also, a big thank you to HK Ku for translating during this Friday’s class at Ayurveda Yoga. These insights couldn’t have happened without you.

Making the mundane magical

Although the school year starts in March here in Korea, September will forever mark the new year for me. It could be the fact that my birthday coincides with the first days of school back in Canada, or it could be something about the cool autumn air cleaning away the heavy summer humidity. There’s something about September that sets the tone for the twelve months ahead.

I’m grateful for this because the tone of the last twelve months seemed to have been tuned to a low resonance with overwhelming treble. Last year, and probably for more years than I wish to admit, life was all about angst. Everything was all so serious. And I seem to slip into seriousness like a cold hand slips into warm winter mitts. It’s just too easy.

That’s why I need to be proactive instead of retroactive, or reactive, for that matter. I need to be proactive about bringing joy, play, and fun into my work, which the majority of time involves planning lessons, or giving written feedback to students. But considering the fact that this work sees me sitting at a desk in front of my computer, how can I be proactive in this way?

One of the ways I do this:

It’s all about making the mundane magical. (click to tweet)

Here are my favorite ways to bring magic to my work:

  • Taking a screen break by gazing at my favourite flowers or picture.

pink-roses

  • Typing away with my favourite snack by my side.
  • Slowly sipping a good cup of coffee, or if needed, a glass of wine (in moderation of course).

Cookies and Coffee

  • Bringing in color pens, candles, or crystals to add beauty to my process.

blown-out-candle

  • Pulling a tarot or oracle card to see what my next step could be.

perspective-card

After a while you’ll discover there’s nothing mundane about the cover of your spiral notebook, the cool breeze coming through the window, or the wisps of nag champa (or your favourite incense) circling your office chair.  There’s nothing mundane about the good work you are doing.

It’s all magic.

Opening Doors to Mindful Self-Compassion in Korea

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls. ― Joseph Campbell

You’ve heard this before. It’s one of the most beloved quotes of our time. You may understand it on an intellectual level, and you’ve seen glimpses of its truth, but there’s only so much one can risk, right? I mean I shouldn’t risk security in order to follow an ambiguous dream, right?

I’m not so sure anymore because the doors have started to open… wide.

For the longest while now, I’ve been feeling an urge to take a different path in life. A voice from deep within has been asking me to start focusing more on healing and transformation work, namely around teaching self-compassion. As the years pass, the voice keeps getting louder. It seems the universe has been hearing this voice as well, and it’s done being subtle with it all.

In September 2015, when the voice was basically screaming at me, I emailed the Centre for Mindful Self-compassion asking where I’d need to go to receive training to become a Mindful Self-compassion (MSC) teacher. I was willing to go wherever I needed to go as long as it matched my schedule. I knew they offered courses in the US, Australia and Germany, but I was holding on to the hope that they’d offer a course somewhere in Asia.

The response I received back was an unexpected surprise. Apparently there was a trainer in Korea who could offer a course!

I quickly emailed this trainer, SeoGwang Snim, and after a few exchanges, I discovered how much I was really starting to align with the universe. She said that if I started the MSC learning process, I’d most likely be able to attend the teacher training course scheduled for August 2016, a week before my semester starts. Talk about excellent timing!

The first step toward applying for the August teacher training would be to do the eight-week introductory course. The only catch is that we’d need at least eight participants. I quickly wrote this message on my Facebook page.

September 24, 2015

Dear friends,
I am working on gathering people who would be interested taking an introductory course in Mindful Self-compassion (4 Saturdays in Seoul). This is a program based on the work of Christopher K. Germer, PhD — The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, Ph.D. The trainer who would deliver this course, SeoGwang Sunim,  http://www.centerformsc.org/user/434, said she would offer a program for English speakers if I can gather enough people. I am very excited about this and motivated to get this organized. If any of you are interested, or know anyone who might be, please contact me and/or pass this along. My intention in taking it is to move forward into becoming an MSC trainer (teacher). If this sounds like something you would be interested in as well, I would enjoy taking this journey with you. Here are details on MSC: http://www.centerformsc.org/Training Thank you for your time!

The response was overwhelming. I couldn’t have imagined how much interest was out there. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to attend, but we had ten beautiful souls to get started.

October 28, 2015

A month ago I put out a call for people interested in taking an introductory course in Mindful Self-compassion in Seoul. I’m excited to share that the course will start this Sunday (Nov. 1). For me, this has been an inspiring example of what we can accomplish when we follow our dreams (a.k.a. inner teacher <3 ). If anyone else would like to join, there is still time to sign up. Send me your email address and I’ll send you the details.

And so in November 2015 we embarked on the eight week journey (we combined the eight weeks into four) at the Institute of Korean Meditation and Psychotherapy in Seoul.

MSC November 2015 8 week

Last August, just a week ago, three of the ten pictured above joined forty-six new participants to finish the first MSC teacher training course in Asia. We are all now officially an MSC teachers (in training)!

Doors open!
Doors open!

And the doors keep opening.

When I emailed the MSC Centre last September, I was focused on getting this certificate, this training. But after accomplishing this goal, I realized the universe had something else in mind. This relates to one of the most important teachings I learned last week:

“Love reveals everything unlike itself.”

Our precious MSC sangha revealed so much more than I could have dreamed of. Together we revealed and healed. Through the kind, wise guidance of our teachers, Christopher Germer, Steven Hickman, SeoGwang Snim, and Gwon Seona, I gained a deeper understanding of how compassion truly works in this world, within me. And with the loving acceptance of my dear MSC sangha (see pictures below), I entered a safe space where I was able to stop intellectualizing compassion and instead resonate with the loving connected presence we all share.

In the end, what I truly learned is that when you love yourself, so much more is available to you. This is the true bliss. This is how the doors start opening.

* The next door to open includes the community Brian Somers, Nina Iscovitz, Tosca Braun and I are building where we will offer the 8-week MSC course in English in Korea. We have started the Mindful Self-compassion Korea Facebook Group and a MeetUp Group where you’ll be able to find out where our courses, either in English and Korean, will be held.

(from top center) Christopher Germer, Nina Iscovitz, Brian Somers, Seona Gwon, Steven Hickman, SeoGwang Snim, me, and Tosca Braun

Mine the Gap

During my recent trip to Australia, I traveled on the train quite often between Mittagong (where Byongchan is doing a three-month residency) and Sydney. This poem was inspired by my time on those platforms. I was struck by the different speeds at which people walked, the choice of winter or summer clothing people wore, and the various languages people spoke. Amidst all the differences, life seemed to flow smoothly. I feel lucky to take part in such flow.

Mittagong Station, Australia

We walk at our own pace.

We find comfort in our own climates.

We see through our own lenses.

We travel on our own tracks.

 

To join you on your track,

I must not only mind the gap,

I must mine it.

 

We mine the gap of our relations.

 

In the gap, our paces merge;

Our climates combine;

Our lenses blend.

 

When I mine the gap,

For even just a moment,

I walk at your pace;

I feel your climate;

I see through your lens.

 

We mine the gap for gems of understanding,

Crystals of clarity,

Minerals of truth.

 

With my mined treasure,

I walk at a slightly different pace;

I appreciate another climate;

I see a new tint through my lens.

 

I travel more lightly on my track.

Central Station, Sydney, Australia