I’m trying…I really am. My ego has been around for quite a while now and I can tell it’s hesitant to play second fiddle to being fully present and unattached to outcomes. How can you measure being present? says my ego in disgust. How will you know if you are right or if you are wrong? Although this whole ego-thing could probably be a blog in itself, today I want to share with you the first time I lost my ego. Why, its right up there with the first time l lost my…you get the idea.
Does the name John Heider ring a bell? How about the book, The Tao of Leadership? Anything?
I participated in a 270-hour facilitator training a number of years ago and the book we used throughout the 9-month period was The Tao of Leadership by John Heider. That book and the philosophy it presented ended up being the essence of what true facilitation is all about…although I didn’t know it at the time. You see, I was all about ego then. I was about adding classes, degrees, certifications, and whatever else I could get my hands on to prove to myself and to the world that I was worthy, competent and capable.
In hindsight, much of the actual learning for me in this particular training occurred by way of the live facilitation that our teachers demonstrated during the various sessions. I recall always being in awe from watching how easy they made the facilitation process appear. It was like watching an artist transform an empty canvas into a work of art…flawlessly no less.
But of course I was all about ego then and along with my admiration for my teachers came a growing lack of confidence in my own abilities. There’s no way I could do that, I’d say to myself. I’m simply not competent enough, let alone confident to know what to do or when to do it…that is without a script, a teleprompter or a director who could yell “Cut” whenever I needed a do-over.
And then in walks John Heider…
One of the perks of this facilitator training was getting to spend three-days with John Heider, the facilitator of all facilitators. He was the kind of guy who could make you want to reveal everything about yourself just by looking at you with his curious eyes and his unending smile.
I’ll never forget what happened next. John plants himself in the center of the circle, looking like an America version of Buddha, complete with his big belly hanging out. He glances around the group, smiles with his unconditional loving eyes, and says, “Who’d like to work with me?”
Immediately a woman raises her hand and joins him in the center of the circle.
“Tell me what you want me to know,” he says.
Meanwhile, I’m desperately trying to write down every word he says as he facilitates. I don’t want to miss a thing.
The woman seems to be struggling with her words, unable to talk.
John continues to smile, making her feel like the most important person in the Universe. To this day, I’ve never seen anyone be so present with another person.
The woman starts crying.
John gently asks her to point out where in her body the pain was coming from.
She touches her stomach.
At this point something transformational in itself was starting to happen with me…without consciously knowing it, I had put the pen and paper down, and for the first time became completely present with what was happening in front of me.
John, still smiling, asked, “If your tummy could talk right now, what would it want to say?”
Immediately my eyebrows raised up. Tummy? Are you serious!
Seconds later the woman began talking and opening up. John then skillfully facilitated a dialogue between her tummy and her head. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…it was working! Within the next ten minutes this woman had broken through some intense emotions and was smiling and radiating positive energy.
“How did you know what to do next?” the group asked John afterwards.
“I didn’t,” he responded. “I just stayed present with her and created the container for her to do her own work. My questions merely came from a place of curiosity. You need to remember, it’s not about directing their process; it’s about being with their process. It’s about creating a space for them to guide themselves. When you are thinking about what to do next or where to go, you are back in your head and it’s now about you. Facilitation isn’t about you…it’s about them. How can you be present with another if you are thinking about what to do or how to do it? All the information you need is right in front of you. Pay attention.”
He then went on to say, “You need to learn whatever you need to learn and then let it go. You can’t bring your notes, your books, or your ego in with you when you are working with someone. You simply bring yourself, your love, and your curiosity.”
I’m still shaking my head to this day in disbelief. It was like he was talking directly to me at that moment. More importantly, here was a man who took a complicated and difficult skill set and simplified it to its bare essence. I will be eternally grateful to him.
I’ll never forget how profound that moment was for me…it was the day I became a facilitator…and it was also the day I learned how to release my ego and be present.