In May this year, the third iteration of Dr Elise Bialyiew’s ‘Mindful In May’ festival took place, and for the first time I got involved. I’ve had a long term interest in mindfulness, so I pitched right in. Throughout May I meditated daily and blogged about the experience on Yammer to our All Company feed. In the meantime, many colleagues got involved into the movement too. And while undoubtedly the trendy thing lately, a focus on mindfulness has improved my facilitation. This is a sample of what I have been persevering with since May.  



Halfway through May, I ran a workshop on leading through change. Having not run one for a while, I considered doing the customer deep content prep the night before. Instead though I went into it with an empty mind, courtesy of a big mindful meditation session instead. Here’s what happened.


It was a lovely group, 10 people, from across the company. They were all curious and some were super keen to be there for a valid business reason.  It was a meander through the content – driven by the appetites of the learners to discuss certain areas – and when we got to afternoon tea, I knew I had to keep the rest tight. Typically I don’t mind this situation, as I love to run the last hour or so quite fast-paced as we reach the finish. So that’s what I did, and learning outcomes achieved. I wondered if the meditation had any dramatic effect at all.


Then the next morning I woke up with a realisation. I had left some content completely out! This is not my normal result, and was initially unnerving. This is an idea of how I visualised my normal facilitation process:


Through a workshop I put tent-pegs in the ground. Attached to those tent-pegs are ropes. I try to pull these ropes in the same direction through the workshop, although the tent-pegs are scattered. Some of the tent-pegs are purely for sensory acuity, to stimulate opportunities to anchor concepts in the moment. Some are stories. Some are for energy maintenance. Some are to challenge the participants. Some are forewarned, some are surprises. Towards the end, I try to tie the ropes together, knots on knots until the ropes are one cohesive thing.


But that day, I left some knots untied.


And after much reflection, I’m OK with that.


Part of the reason is with this workshop is a post-workshop email, with lots of resources and links that I reference through the day (call it basic content curation if you like). Having left the participants curious, without a fully formed notion in their own mind, there is an appetite and some direction for future learning.


Maybe I just didn’t feel ready to fully let go of the entrenched notion of a facilitated workshop needing to be a self-contained, cohesive but inward looking learning experience. My enhanced mindfulness helped me let that go. So instead of visualising ropes and tent-pegs, I’ve been trying to visualise the tendrils of a plant, reaching out and growing. Being present in the moment, noticing the small details and not doubling-back on myself and where I was going.



Because I am experiencing what mindful meditation can offer, I’ve been running 2 minute versions to start off most of my sessions and workshops since May. Based on a technique of Dr Bialyiew, several hundred people have now been through the following process with me:

  • Everyone finds a place to stand in the room
  • I ask everyone to place their hands by their sides and close their eyes
  • I ask everyone to first notice the sounds they can hear, both in the room and off in the distance. This lasts 10 seconds.
  • I then ask everyone to notice the smell of the room for 10 seconds
  • Then everyone wiggles their toes in their shoes. I ask them to isolate the sensations in the rest of their body when they do this.
  • Next I ask for everyone to notice the temperature of the air on their exposed skin.
  • The penultimate step is to focus on breath going in and out for 30 seconds. I ask for them to focus on the end of the breath going in and out of the body, and to concentrate the mind on following that flow.
  • Then everyone gently opens their eyes. I ask as a final step for everyone to observe the minute details in the room; all the stuff they hadn’t noticed when their minds were elsewhere.

In the debriefs of how everyone has felt, 9 out of 10 responses have been positive, with the rest noticing no change.   Outcomes have ranged to “I feel alert”, “I feel relaxed” to “the colours are more vivid”. It is not only feeling duty-bound to extend some of my knowledge of mindfulness, it is pure experiential learning for the participants.


Meditation in the classroom is better than an energiser; it calms, it focuses, it intrigues, it enchants. Mindfulness improves facilitation by making you more present, and perhaps braver. This is all trendy, sure, but I will back it to last longer as a fad than triple denim.

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