Facilitation’s Inner Game

Posted by  GeoffBrown —May 5, 2011
Filed in Being Present, Facilitation

I am re reading some of Tim Gallway’s Inner Game insights and I liked this from Peter Block’s forward on the book …

“We learn fast when we pay attention to what is happening now – the present moment and for what the world really is and not what it could be. Learning becomes a function of attention and noticing more than instruction. It’s about noticing what is going on around you without judgement, fear or the need to control.”

As Tim describes it, there are 2 games going on when playing tennis, facilitating or just about anything. There’s the Inner Game with the goal being reduce the interference to ones own potential. And there’s the outer game which is usually about overcoming external obstacles to reach a goal – like winning a game of tennis.

When facilitating yesterday I decided to apply one of Tim Gallway’s Inner Game strategies to help me ‘notice more’ about the group I was working with. This simple strategy was all about reducing the ‘interference’ that Self 1 (the egotistical activities of our mind) creates for Self 2 (our true self which is full of possibility and potential). My strategy was to be mindful and notice 2 things …

Before I share my lessons, more about a strategy from the Inner Game.

In tennis, Tim encourgaes students to focus on the flight path of the tennis ball. In one exercise he asks students to call out when the ball reaches the very top of it’s trajectory. It sounds easy, but it actually takes intense concentration to watch the ball closely enough to find that momentary high-point. As the player’s attention become absorbed in the approaching flight path of ball after ball, the exercise can become quite addictive. Years ago I used it to great effect during matches and it helped me to enter a flow-state – where there seemed to be nothing but me and the ball on the court.

When a ball rapidly approaches a player’s weaker stroke, you will often see that player tighten-up and her footwork is lost and she is out of position to make the shot. Tim’s insights tell us that our ‘activities and thoughts created by the conscious mind’ (aka Self 1) cause the dysfunction. He says that thoughts like “Oh shit, here comes a deep ball to my backhand!” … or … “If I miss this shot I’ll never get back!” interfere with our natural ability (aka Self 2). The ‘ball-tradjectory’ strategy above helps to quieten Self 1. Our conscious mind is bad at paying attention to more than 1 thing simultaneously, the if a player can truly absorb herself in the ball’s trajectory, there is little room for interfering comments from Self 1. When noticing more a player stops trying so hard and her natural talent and ability shines, at whatever level that may be.

Here’s a list of things I noticed when practicing the Inner Game yesterday …

  1. A constant habit of filling spaces of silence with my own voice and the next instruction or question … and then
  2. As I ‘shut-up’ more and more, I began to notice more about the group – their tone of voice and body language all of sudden became clearer
  3. As my attention to ‘tone of voice’ increased, I began to notice the status games being played … and then
  4. I found myself doing less and less and my interventions became smaller and less frequent. But, the things I did offer supported the group to go deeper into it’s work.
  5. As my attention and focus on the people in the room wavered, I noticed my inner voice jumping in to ‘rescue them’ and ‘do something’ and ‘regain control’.

In sum …

I’ll be practicing this game again when facilitating next week, and when parenting tomorrow 🙂

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