Have you ever wanted to learn more about a subject and found that there are a number of options out there...How does one go about deciding which one is for you?
1. You could attend a workshop with a group of other participants or...
2. You could pay a little more and learn one on one with a skilled practitioner in the field or...
3. You could read a book and self teach, or do the whole "You Tube, Dr Google" thing...
Mmm decisions, decisions... are there are any right or wrong ones?
This is an interesting subject that seems to be coming up a lot, and it seems for me when things come up a lot it means there is a conversation that needs to happen or a thirst for knowledge, and I personally, need to stop and listen, or jump to action and write a blog as in this case.
What I have been asked a lot recently is whether I facilitate workshop training's. Individuals ask by emailing me or just turning up on my doorstep out of the blue, filled with questions. Look, I don't have a problem with any of this except that it seems like the common thread is that people assume that learning in a "workshop scenario" is the only way to explore their chosen subject. When I suggest one on one, I get looked at as if I have just stepped out of my flying saucer.
So these are my honest thoughts on the subject and I offer them to you from a place of personal experience, both as a workshop and retreat attendee, and as a one on one guide. Hopefully after reading this, you will then have more clarity on which way is best for you.
There are pro's and con's of everything one chooses to do in life. So really it is about your desires and expectations. What are you wanting to take away from the event/session/workshop?
It depends firstly on The Subject Matter:
Learning a new craft, like yoga, shibari, art, drumming, dance, or qiqong - these kind of workshops are all ok. Why? Because they aren't deeply personal or transcendent where you need to be held within a safe space.
If you are wanting to learn about Breathwork, Tantra, Yoni, Womb or Lingam Healing or releasing rage, I urge you to book a one on one with someone that can hold you, hold your space and be there beside you in case shit goes sideways or pear shaped like they like to say here in New Zealand, which is usually what happens when working with energy.
This is a biggie for me. Too often I hear that people come away from workshops feeling traumatized, don't get me wrong some people come away from one on one's being traumatized too. So it is not just a workshop problem. I believe it is a facilitator problem. I have been to workshops or retreats to be more precise, where each participant has two support people in place. And then I have been to workshops where there are 20 participants, one teacher and maybe 2 or 3 helpers, who are not even capable of being a support person, because they have not been trained in holding space for another.
At this point, there will be some of you wanting to know "what is holding space?"
Holding space means that you are fully capable of being present for another persons wellbeing. You are aware of the signals of stress and trauma. You are able to assist the person and talk them through their distress and calm them down or allow them the space to explore their emotions in safety without it affecting you, the support person, personally or emotionally. During energetic workshops it is common for people to have outbursts of emotions, such as rage, screaming, crying, laughter, hysteria, nausea, diarrhoea and various other bodily outbursts.
So think carefully about the subject matter you are wishing to explore, then ask yourself whether you will need a support person to hold space for you, if so, ask the facilitator if his or her workshop caters to this need, which brings me to the next point. Most workshops and even retreats that specify that you need to be responsible for your own experience, are saying that they do not have the capacity to hold space for you...meaning they don't take any responsibility for you if you have a meltdown...so no duty of care.
Most people have a deep desire for connection, to feel loved and feel a sense of belonging, so being part of a tribe or a community that resonates with our core being and our own belief systems gives us that sense of being home and part of a bigger family. If this is you, participating in an ecstatic dance workshop, drumming or yoga festival or even a belly dance huffla, these are all great workshops to do with others. But if you want to figure out something intimate, like why you cannot make love to your husband or why you cannot orgasm or connect with your body, then this is something you really need to have a guide do with you one on one. Especially if some of the reasons that may come up are traumatic abuse related and wounded child type stuff.
Scratching the surface or Digging Deep:
Some workshops merely scratch the surface, they give a general idea, but unless they are residential events where your space is held securely and you have the support and mentoring to thoroughly immerse yourself into your experience and allow yourself to connect deeply with body, mind and spirit and then allow the integration of this connection to happen organically you may come away feeling unfinished or depleted.
Is it your story or their story? -Getting hooked into the stories of others:
Lets face it we all love a good juicy story right? Our ancestors told story's to entertain and pass down myths and legends to us, so it is ingrained in us to listen to these tales. But in a workshop situation that you have chosen to do, so that you can figure out what your story is, why you are the way you are, how your belief systems or child hood dramas have shaped you, do you really think it is helpful to get hooked into your participants story, will that not drag you away from your experience or will it embellish your own? Sure you may resonate and commiserate with the other participants because you may have a similar story, but never the less, it will take you away from your own experience.
When I did my first Tantric residential training, I found that hearing my fellow participants screaming and shouting or loud fire breathing or fist beating really took me out of my own experience and I felt truly ripped off. So the beauty of working one on one with someone is that they can be as vocal as they want, the experience of their journey is theirs, no one else's. They have not been coerced to cry or laugh or resonate with anyone else, and what comes up for them, is owned by them.
Ego always come out to play:
Oh the ego, it is always there in the background playing away, keeping us from fully experiencing connection. One ego is bad enough, now go to a workshop and every single participant has their ego playing deviant tricks of the mind, comparing, judging, separating...we all like to think that we don't have an ego or we can control ours and yes you can if you know how, but the problem is that not many workshop participants know how, otherwise they wouldn't be participating they would be teaching. Working one on one with a guide or practitioner is really helpful in this department because they can alert you, when your ego is creating chaos. Can you imagine a facilitator having to stop every time someone's ego plays mind games with the participant, nah you would be there for months.
Individual Needs vs Collective Needs:
Workshops are usually created for the broader audience, so if you have specific needs, you may be out of luck unless every other participant has that same need. A good facilitator will ask you in an email what your specific needs are that you would like addressed in the workshop and she will ask every other participant the same thing. Then cater accordingly. Unfortunately most people don't really know what they need until they are in a receiving state so, this makes catering specifically for each person really hard in a workshop situation. However, if you choose to work one on one with a practitioner or guide you can co-create and discuss your needs step by step as they arise and evolve.
This is another biggie for me. Confidentiality is so important for people to feel safe. It is a small world and now that we have the internet, there isn't much you cannot find out about a person. But if you are wanting to keep things intimate and personal especially your deepest darkest desires, fears and traumas, the last thing you want to do is go let loose with your emotions at a workshop with a bunch of people who couldn't care if they blabbed to their partners about this guy or girl on their workshop who had a major meltdown or shared that he had been shagging his secretary.
Checking In - Duty of Care:
When I am working one on one with my clients, there is a continual "check in" to see how they are feeling whether they are feeling comfortable or frightened, whether they wish to rest or continue, or even end the session because we have covered as much ground as we can for the moment. With workshops, time is critical, it can be abused very easily and so sometimes when things could be slowed down for check in, this does not happen. It is hard to check in with every single participant on a one on one basis at a workshop. Most facilitators will just do a quick " how is every feeling?", most people will just mumble and say "OK", "yeah good" but not really connect with their inner feelings. It is just one of those things, you cannot expect to have this extra duty of care in a workshop environment, it would take so much extra time.
Real world Teacher, Mentor, Facilitator, Guide:
Now this is where I may stand on a few toes...so be it...
I don't know about you, but If I am going to be mentored or taught by anyone, I want that person to know their stuff, actually be in business, have clients, and have testimonials to go with it all.
I know a few people in the industry that have somehow risen to stardom in the workshop arena, twists of fate, social media buy ins, because they are "Hot"...part of the beautiful people... but nevertheless, they have zero compassion for people, no accountability, their duty of care is lacking, there have been some that should be behind bars and yet they still run workshops, have a following of innocents and leave destruction in their wake. Some may even have written books, or appeared on television or rubbed necks with the rich and famous, but this doesn't mean they have integrity and should be inspiring others. So do your homework, check out who you want to come into your life. Sometimes the best ones to teach are the ones that live in the real world, have an actual home address, don't piggy back on the backs of others, are humble and are still working in the industry.
Is your workshop in a tropical location for your benefit or the benefit of the facilitator?
How do you sell a workshop? Choose a fancy destination, that must mean you know your shit. Lets go to Bali, Samoa, Hawaii etc etc. Wow that facilitator must be so successful because he or she lives in a beautiful tropical location. Well guess what, you put her there. By buying into this whole workshop scenario. Every participant that pays full price for their lodgings and retreat pay for the facilitators well being for the next for months in paradise. If that facilitator lived in your city, would you be a client? If so then go, if not then just go on holiday don't waste your money. I know I would rather explore a new tropical island without wasting my sunny days away in a workshop.
Are you wanting a connection with the teacher?:
For me the beauty of one on one sessions or retreats is that I get to know my clients on a very personal basis. Most clients return regularly, become friends and almost always there is an energy exchange of some sort which is truly special. From experience, being a participant in a workshop space is nothing like this, it is quite noticeable to see how some facilitators keep themselves apart from the participants. This doesn't sit very well with me, there seems to be this sense of inequality..."I am better than you, you are the student, I am the teacher, therefore we are not equals..." No not for me. I do not hold this belief system. I believe we are all equals, and that we each have something to share. Hence the energy exchange of one on one works especially well for me.
Do you need to be heard or seen?
If it is important to you, that you are understood for your reason for showing up, or wish to be listened to, validated and feel a sense of connection with the teacher and the group. I suggest you choose carefully the group and the teacher. Some workshops do not allow time to co mingle and allow expression within the workshop space as it takes the workshop on a different path and allows that story to play itself out. It also allows the ego to come into play, so it isn't encouraged as a norm.
When working from a one on one perspective, you will always be encouraged to express yourself, you will be witnessed and listened to without any fear of judgement and it will not affect the way the energy flows as this session is created specifically for you.
I have left this to the last item on the agenda, because it is super important, that there is a high level of after care put in place to check in with workshop participants on how one is feeling after an event/workshop as well as a one on one. For some people it can take days to process and align their bodies and emotions after huge energetic experiences.
Any facilitator worth her pound of salt will ensure that you have the right tools to assist you in the days that follow. From being gentle to yourself, to making sure that you ground yourself, commune with nature, take aromatherapy baths. Stay away from negative people. Some people find it helpful to book some time away by themselves, so that they can process the events organically without having to discuss anything with anyone. Silence at this time can be pretty powerful too. Journaling helps too, as well as eating nourishing plant based food to keep your vibrational frequency high.
I personally check in with my clients within 24 hours and also offer them the opportunity to email or phone me with any concerns they may have in the days after their one on one so that they can ask questions or speak about how they are feeling.
So there it is, I apologize in advance to any facilitators that may take offence to my musings on this subject. I know that there are a lot of workshops run with integrity and love, but there are even more run with just numbers and dollars in mind, with no care for the participants, and this needs to change. I assure you all that I am not alone in these thoughts. There are many that have experienced workshops and one on ones and now choose, to choose more carefully the facilitator that may inspire fear or love into their being.