I guess it was simply meant to be. We all sometimes experience such serendipitous moments when we suddenly get an impression that everything seems to be falling in its right place to form a clear whole.
This is precisely what happened to me several days ago when at 9 o’clock in the morning I arrived in a small Indian town of Lonovala which hosted the IAF India Annual Conference held by the IAF India Chapter. I did not know any of the attendees, I had very little expectations – simply speaking, it was sheer curiosity and love for facilitation that had me make up my mind to participate in the event.
A month earlier in Warsaw I met Trevor Durnford (presently the Chairman of the IAF World) who told me about the conference in India, at the same time mentioning that the IAF has been developing very dynamically. Yet, at that time it was such a distant issue for me that I did not even think to inquire more precisely what he meant.
I finally made up my mind to attend the conference already in Goa, during my annual three-month holiday with family. My kids go to local school, while I take this opportunity to put some distance between me and civilisation, its hustle-and-bustle which is such a strong determinant of my daily life in Poland. This year I was additionally seeking peace and inspiration for a book I plan to write. And so, entirely unprepared for the business context, I set off to the conference wearing flip-flops and galligaskins. I thought I had nothing to lose, after all nobody knew me there.
Upon entering the conference hall I was overwhelmed with the intensity of colours – some women clad in beautiful saris, some of the men sporting traditional local costumes. Yet, they all had one thing in common – namely the special smile brightening their faces. The smile I have not encountered anywhere outside of India – free of falseness, innuendos, and hidden agendas, a pure combination of humility and creative energy. Merely seconds pass, and I feel their openheartedness dissolve my tension and although the hall is packed with more or less two hundred of complete strangers, I feel no fear, only an inner thrill.
To my surprise, the proceedings commence sharp on time. Over many months in India, I have already managed to learn that more than often a watch is an entirely superfluous gadget while time pressure is practically devoid of any raison d’être. Our eyes closed, we listen to beautiful Indian music, the tumult subsides, and I can feel that something important is about to unfold. Being here I begin to understand the idea behind the main slogan of this edition of the event: ‘Engaging Minds and Hearts’. I cannot resist an impression that here it is a lot more than a slogan, it is something that actually transpires here at all times. All participants have a similar understanding of facilitation, regardless of the level of their knowledge. For these people it is an inner journey where attitudes and values play the main roles.
The conference gives me a chance to talk to many attendees and I use this opportunity to try and figure out the difference in perceiving facilitation. All subsequent voices seem to merge to form one complete whole, this way revealing to me the secrets of Hindu perception. What I experience in relations with other conference participants is, first and foremost, authenticity and genuine interest in facilitation and its development in Poland. The knowledge which I acquire during the two days allows me to understand the source of the participant’s commitment as well as why facilitation in India is developing so rapidly. Living in Poland I experience meditation, I manage to reconnect with myself , but oftentimes I am afraid to speak about that, as I am under an impression that in our culture spirituality is received and perceived as something that is unbecoming, inappropriate in business. It is considered to be something reserved for the personal space while hardly advisable in the analytical world brimming with hard data. At the event in India each subsequent workshop and almost each conversation include spiritual themes and threads. Here meditation and reconnecting with yourself are strongly intertwined with the sphere of business.
In our facilitation school we consider the facilitator to be the main tool of facilitation. Operating a school of facilitation I was aware that for many a person it is a huge discovery. However, in the Indian community, the IAF is something natural, FACILITATION IS A WAY OF LIFE. During one of the many conversations I learnt that facilitation is a revolution. Undoubtedly, it has its roots in the Indian culture dominated by a strongly hierarchical upbringing (even today 98% marriages in the countryside are arranged, children are brought up to be humble and subservient to adults). The conversation about revolution incited a more in-depth reflection in me and now I understand that facilitation the substance of which combines equality, co-creation, and individual responsibility stands in opposition to the hierarchical culture. So it comes as no surprise that throughout the duration of the event a certain feeling accompanied me, a feeling of participating in something exceptional and unique – IN AN EMERGENCE OF A NEW QUALITY. It is a power comparable to a grand and beautiful mission of being a part of an organisation where the founders have faith in the causative power of humans.
The sense of uniqueness and exceptionality as well as new quality of facilitation was particularly heightened during the evening meeting with the Spiritual Mover behind the event – Narasimhhan V (Narsi). I am extremely grateful to Narsi for his kindly devoting me enough time to pick my brains about development of facilitation in Poland and about the School of Facilitation I run. After all I was a complete stranger to him, he knew nothing about me, and nonetheless we spent the evening engrossed in a most fruitful conversation. India worked its magic yet again. In turn, I had a chance to find out how much the idea of facilitation impacts him and his life and to see the passion characteristic of his approach towards the development of facilitation in India. Outstanding dedication and commitment were palpable both in his words and his gestures . The beautiful way in which he speaks about the people he works with and their achievements of more three years . He spoke of conferences, mentoring programmes, developmental webinars, books and publications, the wealth of support participants exchange while sharing their knowledge and skills. After our conversation I know he is a beautiful human being with a sense of integrity whereas the meeting with him only served to confirm my firm intention to come back here again.
The second day of the conference starts with a plenary session for the audience of approx. two hundred attendees. A fundamental question begins to formulate in my mind ‘How to get such a large number of people involved?’ And yet again, I am up for a pleasant surprise – the idea employed to facilitate such a large group proves effective, and that due to the openness of other participants. In less than ten minutes the conference hall is overcome with creative chaos. The process suggested by the facilitators was perfectly matched to the stage, needs, and our group’s energy. They skilfully supported and reinforced our awakened creativity which soon began to yield effects in the form of beautiful, daring, and funny presentations. At that stage the conference was already living its own autonomous vibrant life.
Another surprising moment came as the evening between the first and second day of the conference . Used to good quality wine served at conferences, I was expecting a similar treatment also here. Imagine my surprise when upon putting my appearance at the evening function I discovered that no alcoholic beverages were served at all. The supper was followed with traditional singing and joy and the food was washed down with … water. In response to my observations, I was told ‘It is the Spirit that warms blood in our veins here’. Well, yet another ‘wow’ moment for me . One more time I realised that all this is about so much more.
The aim of the conference was to engage the minds and hearts, and in my case this aim was fully accomplished. I feel appreciated (although I did nothing). Yet I feel that the appreciation around me was so abundant that I subconsciously absorbed some of it myself. My curiosity has been stirred and I myself have been seduced by the spirit of facilitation present in Indian hearts. I got to see and, more importantly, experience the facilitator’s strong attitude combined with experience and impressive theoretical background . I have a plan to develop the spiritual aspect within my own self. I know it is going to be easier for me as I am going to spend the next two months in the place where remaining in contact with yourself is inscribed within the local aura. What next? We shall see. After all, India is incredible so I believe that the end of this story is only yet to come. I strongly feel, however, that European facilitation combined with Indian experience may significantly impact my life …