Practice, practice

Like many of my friends, I like to talk about facilitation as a practice. It isn’t a straightforward process of identifying problems and choosing the right recipe to solve them. It’s easy for humans to see patterns that appear from meeting to meeting, but that skill can sometimes blind us to subtle differences, and make us apply formulaic “solutions” to what we think the “problems” are. In the end, I prefer to “trust the people” rather than “trust the process”.

So I really appreciate Antonio Dias’s reflections on what we mean by practice. He makes the important point that practice is not simply doing the same thing again and again until you get good at it.

Practice… is not practicing scales, doing calisthenics, or running through any sort of programatic solution to the problem of “mastery.” Practice becomes a place and a time dedicated to allowing improvisation to happen

That “allowing” process is really interesting. There’s something paradoxical about it, and it doesn’t lend itself to prosaic explanation. When facilitating, I regularly find myself feeling my way through some phases of meetings. Sure, there are times when I can just run a process, but there are others when I sense a pressure to “do something” and I don’t know what it is. I tend to sit with the anxiety and when I am able to just allow it, a moment of calm descends and then I can decide what to do. My hunch is that the move to just allow the uncertainty is key, it’s when I step out of “problem-solution” thinking.

Antonio quotes Peter Kajtar who is poetic on this:

…we … need… a renewed sense of the importance of a moment to moment openness and sensitivity to coherence and incoherence, an awareness that is devoid of, or …actively discarding preconceived ideas, acquired emotional attitudes and other reflexes of the past. As long as that past remains, the ‘now’ will not contain ‘the whole of time’…. Instead … our ‘now’ will simply be the point where the past meets the present and continues (with its sorrow, confusion, conflict, etc.), a little modified. And we may continue on that path to our heart’s content, but we will come to nothing new.

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