The month of May has been very blissful for me in many ways.  Usually, this is the time we take off for the mountains and I usually go off the grid to refresh and renew for the busy monsoon season.  This year, we stayed home and instead, I got to enjoy the use of a totally empty gym, traffic-free roads, a bumper crop of mangoes & litchis and time to catch up on my reading.  There is one other thing I did this month and that was creating a brand new, grounds-up manual for a course in Facilitation.

Writing a manual is like writing a recipe – you are telling someone (the reader) how to do something!  What makes it tricky is that this person will spend many days in front of you – so the manual needs to be complete and tell the entire story and yet ensure that it needs the face-time interaction to enrich it and give it depth.  The final ingredient in this sauce is to consider the synergy of the group – the manual needs to encourage the user to seek input & support from the others using the manual at that time.  These are the 3 components of a killer manual:  precision how-to instructions, a deeper layer of insight through live interaction also called the workbook or playbook part & the underlay of group synergy structures & frameworks!

And hey, this was a manual on facilitation so what emerged organically was that the act of writing the manual was also a facilitation!  How so, you might ask?  Well, facilitation comes from the root word, facilis, which means easy.  So simply put, facilitation is the process of making something easier!  In the context of learning, facilitation is the process of enabling learning – creating a space where the participant taps into their own experience, creativity & insights to learn.  For 21 some days, I became the facilitator & the facilitated – there was a space created where I could ask these questions:

  • what does a facilitator need to know?
  • how does a facilitator need to be during facilitation and in preparation for it?
  • what is the USP of this brand of facilitation that I am sharing?
  • how can I make sure that each user can gain insights & benefit from this work in a way that honours his or her own style?

And the understanding, the learning, the insights I gained started to unfold as the pages of this manual.  Soon, it will be time to share this manual and the Foundation Course with 10 amazing participants.  And I know that as I facilitate that process, I will also witness countless more insights emerging from each individual and the group as a whole.  It promises to be a transformation!

PS Check out the details of this intimate, intense course and I look forward to seeing some of you in the room!

I am just back from a fabulous yoga retreat in God’s Own Country, Kerala – life is not over if one has not experienced the energy & lush landscape of this region and that is the subject for another very important conversation 🙂  The retreat was intense and light – a balance that is difficult to achieve & enjoy!  The yoga and meditation ensured that each day had a rhythm of flexibility & surrender – so when we had 2 powerful sessions of personal inquiry, let us say, it was easy to explode, heal & soar.

Our amazing facilitator Hari led us through the understanding of 9 primary emotions, the Navarasas, that run common through all forms of Indian art & knowledge systems – paintings, dance, music, yoga, and Ayurveda.  The premise of the session was that because we have various conditionings that prevent us from totally experiencing these primary emotions, we develop secondary patterns that are repressive or oppressive.  Makes sense so far – yes?

Then he began to list the 9 emotions:

  • Shringara Love
  • Hasya Laughter
  • Karuna Compassion
  • Raudra or Krodha Anger
  • Veerya Courage
  • Bhaya Fear
  • Bibhatsya Aversion
  • Adbhuta Wonder
  • Shanta Peace

As soon as he got to the end, I nearly took off from the floor.  Do you see it too?  Yes that’s right – there is no happiness in that list!  For the remaining 50 minutes or so of the session, that is where I stayed.  As a coach, if I could have a rupee for every time I hear the words: I just want to be happy – well at the least, I’d be able to hire someone to write this for me 🙂  You know what I mean…

Just look around – the pursuit of happiness is not only the viral trend of the ages, it is also a possibly trillion dollar industry!  And it makes us most unhappy that we cannot be happy.  So imagine a possibility that it is not primary, basic, part of our essential nature to be happy.  What if happiness is actually a by-product and as such accidental?  What if we shifted our focus from wanting to be happy first and foremost to being happy when we are happy?

Basically, what this means is that totally experiencing one of these primary emotions can (maybe) bring me a moment or moments of happiness.  I met an old friend, we shared some old memories & fell into uncontrollable laughter….aah look, happiness!  I stand at the edge of the ocean watching the sun disappear at the horizon turning the sky into a palette of reds, golds & then purples.  Total awe….and then quiet happiness!  And we can go on…

As I am writing this, I just let out a big sigh!  When I shift the goal from happiness to something that comes naturally to me and something I can do easily, then I am in flow.  There is no effort, there is nothing to remember or strive for, nothing that makes me feel like I am missing out or incomplete.

WOW that is wondrous!  PS feeling happy I am 🙂 or as my beautiful friend Keerthi would say:  happy is coming!

About 10 years ago, I was visiting my friend Shilpa.  She was mother to a six year old and we were talking about eating out with small children.  As a non-parent, I was telling her that I always felt a bit sorry for parents whose children throw temper tantrums in public places.  And in her always wise way, Shilps said to me:  Kash, the magic trick is distraction!

Distraction you say!  Her mothering superpower was that she never got into a chat with her toddler about the reason for the outburst.  She would just say: Ooh, look at this shiny red car!  Or “Isn’t this cheese yummy!” And as soon as the attention shifted, all was well!

In recent days, I have been mulling on this pearl of wisdom and its more wider effectiveness – mostly for us grownup toddlers.  Have you set off in 2017 with an intention to eat better?  Or get on your mat daily?  Write 100 lines everyday?  Or read 47 pages?  Have you noticed that as you are cruising along, living your intention quite effortlessly, a serpent rears its evil head in your Garden of Eden?  And could it be that this is the serpent of boredom?

Chat to Self:  This is too easy.  Maybe I am not stretching enough?  Is this what <<<your favourite role model>>>  would do?

And the next thing you remember is that you are out of the flow, the intention has dropped and you have reverted to your favourite binge option (Netflix, chips, chocolate, shopping, your choice)!

So what else is possible?  I submit: distraction!  So the next time chat to self starts to roll in your head, distract yourself.  Ooh…look!!!  Find anything that works for you.  Here are some of my more effective shiny red cars:

  •  get up and walk for a few minutes
  • drink a glass of water
  • tick of a to-do item that is quick like paying some bills online, putting laundry away
  • get away from your device, close your eyes and take 5-10 breaths slowly

And at the other end…voila…you will notice you are back on track, intention in place & minimal damage done!

Write in and share with me how your shiny red car looks!

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Since the last 3 years, I have been attracted to crafts, colouring and even painting.  It all started with doing craft work at my Leadership workshops – it was clear to me that when “normal” adults (successful, driven and skilled) got scissors, crayons and coloured paper in their hands, they transformed!  Suddenly the room came alive with the sounds of laughter, energy and utter joy.  And being the intelligent being that I am (modest to boot :)), I decided that I wanted some of that juice too.  So my free days and stolen afternoons were spent colouring zen tangles, making vision boards by cutting up glossy magazines and oh my, sprinkling copious amounts of GLITTER on everything I made.

Then I signed up for a graphic design course – and as my lovely sir taught me the amazing Adobe tools, I was amazed at the designs and forms that I was imagining.  I like to believe that I always appreciated beauty and could tell how good looks…it is a different high to experience that I could create it too!  And the Universe is a very humorous phenomenon – once you see something or just get it, it then begins to shower on you.  So, I go home to visit my family and spend the most blissful week with my artist sister as she reveals her secrets of composition, layering and diffusion with me.  My sister has had this magic talent all her life – never have we had a conversation or sharing about art.  This time she somehow felt I was ready.  You can only guess at my delight to finally be privy to a little bit of her inner sanctum.

So what happens to transform a left-brain, engineer by education & corporate jockey by profession into a right-brain, crayon wielding unicorn?  I don’t know and mostly I am too blissed to care 🙂  I have a theory though that I can share with you – I feel that the answer lies in the trinity of Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram (Truth-Goodness-Beauty).  As one sets off on a spiritual path, the original quest is for truth.  Truth leads one to investigate what is good, truly incorruptibly good.  And that then points towards beauty – because the ultimate measure of truth and goodness might be beauty.  Beauty that lifts your heart and makes it soar, beauty that infuses the mundane with the divine and beauty that ultimately brings you to your knees in surrender.

Since I am still meandering on my quest, this is a work-in-progress theory.  And it is difficult to worry much about its accuracy when everywhere I look all I see is…yes you are right, beauty!

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This month I had a new insight that I want to share with all my entrepreneur friends – especially the solo-preneurs!  If you have ever had a job and worked as part of a larger organisation as I have, this will sound familiar.  Whenever I got too busy or stuck with some project, I would either get help from a colleague or escalate to my manager.  Easy!  Over the last 11 years as an entrepreneur, I had completely forgotten that I still had that option of asking for help.  I had become used to being the coach and the sales person, technical support, admin & hr, purchase manager and site maintenance expert!  No wonder my idea book is bulging at the seams and yet it takes me so long to roll out new services or products.

Last weekend I was facilitating a retreat in Banaras and I said to the group:  Seek expert help – don’t attempt to do everything on your own!  And bingo – the light went on inside.  This is something I needed to really hear and implement.  So in the last 8 days, here are some of the changes I have made:

  1.  putting a very capable handyman on retainership – this person will now be responsible to come by twice a week, fix the small things that need fixing, purchase office supplies and keep the office humming
  2. hiring a personal trainer – i am actively looking for someone who will adjust to my schedule and work out with me 3 a week.  right now, i am juggling many other things because my workout sessions are at fixed times
  3. follow a brand & social media strategy built by an expert – rather than winging it myself, I am implementing a brand & content strategy that has been developed by an expert.  this is a webinar I attended a year ago and I have the material with me already.  this makes it more structured and automated – it frees up time and makes me feel relaxed!

The results of this “unburdening” will unfold in weeks to come – I can tell you I already feel lighter and happier.  I will keep you posted on how it goes…feel free to share your thoughts or comments on the Essence Facebook page or here!

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