How to Lead a Closed-Eye Process

We start with the assumption that it is both validating and empowering to learn from our own experience. This process allows people some time for inner reflection (with their “eyes-closed” if they so desire) to help people vividly remember a positive experience and use it. Then people get to share that story—which reinforces the learning—and finally get to put it in a larger framework.

Time: 20-45 minutes Group Size: 5-50 people

Procedure:

1. Closed-Eye Process

  • Explain what it will be about (maybe include question like “How many of you…”)
  • Form sharing groups (3-5 in a group)
  • Ask groups to decide who will share first, second, third…
  • Relaxation (deep breathing, letting go of tension in body)
  • “I invite you to remember a time when you successfully… If you’re remembering more than one time like that, choose one for this exercise”
  • “Bring it as vividly to mind as possible” (use eye channel, ear channel, body/movement, feelings/emotions)
  • The punch line. For example, “What qualities or characteristics inside you enabled you to do that? What lessons did you draw from that experience for your own learning?”

2. Small group sharing

Walk them through this, announcing the amount of time per person. The larger the workshop, the more important to be formal and insistent on this. (It may not be culturally appropriate to walk them through individual time limits. Alternatively you could tell people approximately how much total group time they have and announce “That’s about one-third of our time for this part,” etc.)

3. Whole group sharing

Use big paper to “harvest” from individuals. It may be necessary to say that we don’t need agreement at this point; the main thing is that there’s a chance for individuals to put forward their perspective.

Note that this is a good chance for the facilitator to frame (put a context around) the material, in order to anchor it more securely for learning. Whenever possible, connect people’s comments to general principles, or to emerging themes in the workshop. A brief story or anecdote may work well here. Often it’s possible to describe briefly a resource, like a book, article or hand-out. Be sure to invite people to study the list, for memory or even for fresh generalizations/principles.

Trainer note: This approach stems from our belief that people have the answers inside of them. For example, during a facilitator training of a group of activist AIDS survivors with no formal facilitation experience, we used this tool. We asked each person to come up with a time you successfully helped a friend through a challenge. Each person found a story and behaviors they used – then we took that list and compared it with a list of facilitator skills. Without knowing it, people were facilitating – now they knew it!


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