Sunday, October 4, 2015

This moment, this minute and each second in it...

Rachel Burnham writes: ‘This moment, this minute and each second in it’ – this phrase and the music that accompanies it have been haunting me all summer – echoing around in my head.  I have frequently found myself singing them whilst working, washing up, gardening or even walking down the street.  I couldn’t remember where they came from, but they seem to connect me to being more mindful in all that I am doing – to paying attention to what is around me, appreciating it and being fully present.

Yesterday, I picked out a CD to listen to and there it was – they are the opening lyrics to a song by Harold Arlen, who also wrote ‘Over the Rainbow’, ‘Get Happy’  and one that always makes me smile ‘Lydia, the Tattooed Lady’.   Apparently, his father, who was the cantor for a synagogue, was so proud of Harold’s music that he used to set the psalms to them and sing them in the synagogue - I’d love to have heard that!   The words to this song are by Johnny Mercer and it was written for a Fred Astaire vehicle.

‘This moment, this minute and each second in it’ is the opening line from a song called ‘My Shining Hour’.  I find the rest of the song rather schmaltzy, but this line inspires me and has clearly stayed with me.

Most recently I have been focussing on being more mindful in the sessions I am facilitating.  Reflecting on this, I find it makes me a much more effective facilitator, more attuned to the group and particularly to individuals, better able to help them to learn.  It aids my concentration and enables me to flow.  Incidentally, it helps me to enjoy the experience even more and the time just flies by.

I was recently asked about how as a trainer you can cope with and perform effectively, when you are doing the same session over and over.  My experience is that being more mindful helps with this.  By focusing on the here and now and what is actually happening with the group and with individuals, it makes every session different and unique.   By listening, observing and responding to what I notice, I am better able to co-create with the group a session that meets their particular needs – even if it is fundamentally the same material, based on the same learning outcomes.

Here are some of the things that seem to make it easier for me to be mindful when facilitating:

  • Being prepared – If I haven’t done the preparation I need to for the session, then it is much harder to focus on the people I am working with and what is happening in the session and as a result I get too focused on the content and my delivery.   I work on doing enough preparation to build my comfort, so that I feel able to let go of the structure and the content and focus instead on helping the people I am working with engage with what they want/need to learn.  

  • Being organised -  This is all about having all the materials, resources, IT facilities and other practicalities thoroughly set up and ready to go, so that they aren’t a distraction.   It can include making sure I am confident in any new equipment/software being used and also having a Plan B in place should things go wrong.

  • Personalising and being personal – When I work with groups over more than one occasion, I like to include within my prep some time to think about the needs of each individual and also how the group may engage with the material to be explored.   This may not be terribly extensive, perhaps just in the journey time, focusing in on each individual and bringing to mind what I know about them – their role, their priorities, the progress they are making, any personal issues – not necessarily problems, it might be a holiday or house purchase.   By doing this, I think I am better able to draw upon this within the session. 

    Where I am working with individuals for the first time, it is good to be able to get chatting with people as they arrive and really pay attention to this – being mindful from outset.

  • Being fully present in the session – The key thing for me here is choosing not to be distracted and to be really there with the people I am working with.  I am aware that sometimes I can get drawn into answering emails or checking social media or chatting to a colleague in breaks or whilst the group is doing an exercise – the lure of multi-tasking.  I am finding it more fruitful not to do this, but to stay focused on the group.

  • Letting go – Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned – the technology for a webinar lets you down, the venue hasn’t set out up the room as requested, you’ve messed up and not got with you some prop or resource that you wanted to use, or learners are late.   And when that happens it is easy to spend time focusing on what you had envisaged and the gap with what is now possible or for feelings of annoyance or being hassled to dominate.   I am learning to move on and let go, focusing on what is possible rather than what might have been.  And that seems to be more helpful for me.

  • Managing my own energy levels – I know I am a better facilitator when I am well rested, not overly stressed and feeling in good health, so it makes sense to pay attention to all these things.   On the day the things that personally make a difference to me are:

    • having a bit of peace & quiet as I get ready for the day, so I have a clear head;
    • eating well – I’m diabetic, so this is something I always have to keep an eye on – if I can feel myself getting a bit ratty or lacking in concentration, it is often because my blood sugar is a bit low, so a supply of healthy snacks is essential; and
    • making sure I get enough water to drink during the day.

You may find it helpful to think about what makes a difference to your own energy levels.

I have been finding it very helpful to focus on being more mindful, both when facilitating and in many other parts of my life.  If you haven’t tried it for yourself you might want to give it a go.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.

Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

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