A few years back, I read an article that changed my view on teaching and facilitating forever. Although I don’t remember the author’s name and have scoured back to try to find the piece (unsuccessfully), I internalized the heart and soul of the message. The author contended that the best yoga teachers don’t teach, they simply share their practices. The author railed against the cookie cutter styles they had been running up against in studios where young teachers are clearly just mimicking lines of a script or parroting their own teacher trainers. The anthem to which he kept returning is that the best yoga teaching flows when you simply share your own practice. If you have a practice, you likely have something to share.
The author’s teaching struck me as relevant for what we can offer as Dancing Mindfulness facilitators. I read this piece shortly after I began the Dancing Mindfulness facilitator program. If you’ve taken a training with me in Dancing Mindfulness or Yoga Unchained, you’ve likely heard me share this teaching with you. I believe it is necessary for me to explore this issue with Dancing Mindfulness facilitators again. What is the state of your personal Dancing Mindfulness practice at the moment and how are you sharing it?
Let me be clear—sharing your practice does not mean that you must set up specialized classes in your community or workshops where you rake in tons of money. I fear that many facilitators in our community no longer consider themselves facilitators because they are not teaching large classes. Or they believe that they never were true facilitators because they didn’t go on to teach a formal class after the training. Think about how you may be sharing your practice in your day-to-day work. Maybe you are a technical dance teacher or a Zumba teacher—are there little ways that you can incorporate the attitudes and elements of Dancing Mindfulness into those dance experiences? Perhaps you are a classroom teacher or a therapist. Are there small ways that you are teaching the lessons you are entrusted to teach using Dancing Mindfulness principles? Have you ever shared dance with friends or family, either in a planned way as part of a celebration or in a moment or random, beautiful spontaneity? Perhaps you once guided a friend you were helping through a troubling experience to dance it out. Some of the most special dancing mindfulness experiences I’ve had are of this variety, as an act of communion with friends in our mutual healing. Maybe you have an active social media presence and share your love of spontaneous dance through the videos and articles that you post; maybe you even share your playlists. I would argue that all of these methods, and I’m sure many others, constitute facilitation.
A story I tell in our book Dancing Mindfulness: A Complete Guide to Healing and Transformation is of my friend Andy. A clinical psychologist who has followed me on social media for years due to our therapy interests, one day Andy whimsically messaged me with a great share. He revealed that due to my posting about dance, including pictures and videos from our Dancing Mindfulness community events, he began dancing around his house. He told me that even though he’s an introvert who never fancied himself a dancer, he was inspired by what he saw us doing. While blaring some of his favorite tunes in his kitchen for dancing in the morning, he made the insight that dancing is always a good idea. Andy’s share was foundational in helping me realize that one can share a dancing mindfulness practice without ever teaching a formal class. Wherever you are active in life you have chances to share your practice—to share your love of dance and all things related to mindful living.
If you went through the facilitator training and are struggling with your identity as a facilitator or where to go next, I encourage you to start by building your personal practice. How are you using dancing, playlist making, or other mindful living strategies in your own life? If you’re not, how can you start? One of the reasons that I wrote the Dancing Mindfulness book is to help people build and cultivate their own personal practices whether or not they have access to a Dancing Mindfulness class. Reading some of the ideas in the book is a place to start. Before I ever facilitated a conscious dance class, following the training I received in another modality, I spent months in my condo putting together playlists that reflected where I was at in life on any given day. With great enthusiasm, I danced the playlist as my own personal practice. This was back in 2011 when I was struggling greatly after my divorce. Yet letting myself to use dance to heal in this way made me realize that I had something to share, and my enthusiasm for facilitating sprang forth from there. I began teaching classes in local yoga studios and at conferences, branching off from there to develop Dancing Mindfulness.
Over the years I’ve further embraced the idea of sharing small samples of dancing mindfulness practice wherever I have the opportunity instead of being focused on full classes. As we discuss in the facilitator training, you can share dancing mindfulness practice with one song, still honoring the beginning, middle, and end flow of the practice. Often times at professional trainings when I teach on trauma, I use a 2 or 3 song playlist to teach a sampler. Or if there is not room for this in the training but I have a chance to teach some yoga-based stretches, I will show people how they can flow those stretches into dance.
When you broaden the idea of sharing your practice to include all of these avenues for offering dancing mindfulness to others, you may realize that you’ve been facilitating all along. And if the extent of your dancing mindfulness practice at this time is a personal practice, please know that facilitating your own healing and transformation in this way is the most important way to be a facilitator. Please consider reaching out to those of us who are active in the Dancing Mindfulness community on the Facebook facilitators forum or the Facebook community forum if you are feeling stuck right now and need some ideas.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity