3rd Thursday Asssembly: The Power of Voice and Body

Screen shot 2014-08-29 at 13.01.12Every month we host a facilitated Facebook assembly for facilitators and workshop leaders around the world to come together and share ideas around a set topic. In August Nilisha Mohapatra facilitated an assembly around the topic of ‘the power of voice and body in facilitation’.

Download a PDF here or take a look at the transcript below:


The below conversation took place on FACEBOOK on August 21st 2014.

Nilisha Mohapatra: Good morning/evening/afternoon everyone! It’s time for August 2014 3rd Thursday Assembly! Let’s get started with a CHECK-IN question:

What is one emotion you are aware of in your body right now? Describe its shape, colour, and a movement you would associate with it.

Katie Jackson: Hmmm – one emotion I am aware of in my body today is a foggy head. It’s kind of like a cloud, large and drifting around, ready to drop little rain drops.

Nilisha: Thank you for getting us started, Katie. I love how vividly you’ve described your emotion! One emotion I am aware of in my body is nervous excitement. It is in the shape of a bright pink ping-pong ball and is constantly bouncing around!

Sarah Bullock: I am aware of some tiredness. ..it’s sitting in my head like a little vice like around my eyes from working on the computer. I am also aware of some excitement and nervousness in my stomach that feels little like butterflies. I am conscious it makes me want to go for a run or dance it out..

Katie: Hey Sarah – so great to see you here!

Nilisha: Hey Sarah, great to have you with us! Welcome It is amazing to see how aware you are of multiple emotions in your body. And I hear you, about the tiredness!

Tanaya Thomas: Feeling inspiration in my legs as I walk and sit it’s shooting straight down into the ground in a straight line

Nilisha: Tanaya, welcome! So happy to have you with us and your check in gave me a burst of energy now.


Goals and Agreements for August 21, 2014


1) To explore the use and effects of VOICE AND BODY IN FACILITATION, and build awareness of these tools.
2) To share our experiences of engaging our bodies and voice in the learning process.
3) To exchange ideas and techniques to use our voice and body as facilitation tools with groups.
4) To connect, recharge and have a meaningful, fun time online.

In order to achieve the goals, here are some suggestions for agreements to make our time together flow really well. We are still experimenting with this form, so be sure to add what you need or want AT ANY TIME DURING THE PROCESS.


1)    No put downs of self or others. Keep a positive, lift-up vibe.

2)    Share at your level; Everyone is welcome, no matter their level of experience as a facilitator or community organizer. All questions are important, and all answers (or further questions) are valuable. It is also okay and important to respectfully disagree with each other.

3)    Show your presence, by LIKING and by responding to keep the flow. Ask questions, make comments, connect. The technical trick for this format is to REFRESH your browser fairly often. LIKING IS MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER SINCE FACEBOOK HAS CHANGED AND WE CAN NO LONGER SEE HOW MAY PEOPLE HAVE READ A POST.

4)    Answer any questions in the COMMENTS below the question to keep the conversation organized and readable. Only open NEW questions in new threads.

5)    You can come and go as you please, take as long as you like to respond, and basically enjoy the text-format to make this work no matter whether you are just waking up, just going to bed, or on your lunch break (time zones unite!!). Feel free to add to the discussion even after our 90-minute session is over


Nilisha Mohapatra: Discussion Question #1:
What does it mean to engage one’s body and voice in facilitation? What, from your experience, are some effects or impact of doing this?

Katie Jackson: I think for me it can be a struggle to engage my voice in particular in my facilitation as I am used to being a little more quiet and reserved, so it is sometimes interesting to think of how you hold your body and use your voice in order to get the attention and hold the attention of a group without being too imposing. I find it challenging!

Nilisha: I’ve been there too with the same challenge, Katie. For me, engaging voice and body is all about attending to what’s happening in my body while facilitating – nervousness, excitement, fear etc- and then giving it a voice by either stating it or doing something to release it. I found ignoring these cues leads me into tuning out of the group’s process!

Katie: That’s so interesting Nilisha Mohapatra. So would you state to a group that you are feeling a bit of nervous energy for example? What kind of things would you do to release it?

Nilisha: Great you asked! Usually sometimes while starting a workshop if I am too nervous, I just say ‘With the tons of hope, excitement and a little bit of nervousness I am feeling in my tummy, I invite you to dive in with me on this journey!’. Usually participants say yes we were feeling nervous too!

Katie: I am really interested in the concept of listening to the wisdom of the body and really feeling the different sensations and what they are telling you about your emotions. That’s quite a new idea to me so I am still working on it, but I find it very useful.

Bo Pah Nah: I tend to be loud always..never been able to do what Katie mentioned.

Nilisha: It is quiet fascinating yes. I too am working on it. Have you noticed any impact on the group when you have been quiet and have had challenges with expressing your voice? I have found it helpful to identify my emotions at such points to know what’s happening to me.

Katie: Well, I find that it really depends on the group and on your support. I think that to be a great facilitator you need to tap into your own natural talents and abilities, so I try not to act like I am louder or more confident than I am as that doesn’t feel authentic, but I try to use my own power and get people to really listen. I always remind myself of Meryl Streep’s character in the Devil Wears Prada – she speaks so softly and everyone goes quiet to listen to her. I don’t want to be exactly like her (haha) but I think that’s a good example of a real power in being quiet.

Nilisha: I agree with you there! If your presence is soft but solid, that is a great strength to have. And yes, it is a good example. I also believe in balancing the two ends of body and voice energy to allow all participants to come into their own, with comfort.

Katie: Hmm, could you say more about that Nilisha Mohapatra?

Nilisha: Katie and Bo Pah Nah, that is an example of balancing that I was talking about. Someone with a strong and loud presence and another person with soft and solid presence appeal to different participants and provide two different styles and hence different kinds of encouragement for the participants to relate to.

Katie: I see – so balancing through co-facilitation perhaps?

Nilisha: Yes, definitely an option, Katie. My natural style is also reserved and I sometimes get conscious if i have to do some theater pieces which require tons of body movements and improv.

Katie: How do you find that your loud quality impacts your facilitation style Bo Pah Nah?

Bo Pah Nah: Katie, I was given a feedback by Nadia about having a softer and more caring approach while facilitating activities like a Beautiful You…and the voice naturally takes a softer tone. The impact is a lot better than having a brash and loud voice.

Tanaya Thomas: If I’m standing it’s planting my feet with intention…Using my hands to assist in describing things or to emphasize. Especially my favorite when agreeing with something or supporting someone. Moving about the space when I feel I need to. Voice…hmm I definitely feel like I speak from a different place when I’m nervous or excited (my throat) and my chest and stomach when I’m feeling more grounded or confident. Also, high fives are severely underated.

Nilisha: Wow! Thank you for that detailed response Tanaya! Those are great tips for facilitators to take away.

Katie: High fives – that’s interesting Tanaya. In the UK context it can come off as cheesy, but on the other hand, it really engages the whole body in celebration and connects two people.

Tanaya: Katie I know what you mean. I always thought it was too. I don’t use it a lot, I try not to force just when it a moment calls for it. Particularly in the more physical workshops I do.

Katie: I like that, try not to force it, I think that might be key.

Nilisha: Have you noticed any specific impact on the group when practicing the techniques you mentioned? I love sharing high fives in the breaks! With the participants who I know are stepping out of their comfort zones, my co-facilitator. I find it being an easy and effective tool to share some positive energy!

Bo Pah Nah: True Nilisha , there is something very nice about the high-five…it helps me relate to a participant in a sporty way!

Nilisha: Bo Pah Nah, I’ve seen you do that so often! Absolutely inspiring.

Tanaya: Nilisha, if I’m speaking from my chest or stomach I find it means I’m breathing more intentionally. Which may mean that the participants feel like they can as well? Not sure, still thinking about this. When I use to do some theater training I was told there’s something about when I performer/actor makes a point of inhaling and exhaling visibly it also gives the audience permission to as well. With the hand gestures, I was felt like it supported the idea that there’s no wrong way to express yourself. Not sure if that’s the impact it gives…

Nilisha: I think you are spot on with the impact there, Tanaya. Breathing intentionally in specific patterns or from specific places indicates many different things. But I do believe that the group can feel what you feel!

Padmaja Nagarur: Thanks Nilisha. What rich conversations here. With a theatre background, I’m a big believer of using body and voice. I usually start off with high energy, broad movements and voice modulation of a performer to release the discomfort in me and participants. It’s worked 8/10 times for me because I think the biggest fear we all have is that we may look or sound foolish. And as you’ve all pointed out rightly, I bring in a deeper, slower, low-movement, I’m-with-you eye contact and a faint smile while facilitating and debriefing specific activities that demand going deeper. Something that I was uncomfortable with but I’ve picked up over a period is allowing room for silence.

Nilisha: Padmaja, thank you for dropping by and sharing your experiences. These practices of yours are amazing! Your sharing has also captured a discussion we were having about balancing two extremes of body and voice.. From big, loud, boisterous to soft, solid and slow! Fantastic!


Nilisha Mohapatra: Discussion Question #2: Our body and voice are like doorways to experiencing life and learning differently. How can we build more awareness and tune into these resources we have? What are some techniques we can practice for ourselves, to build this awareness?

Katie Jackson: What do you think about forms of yoga/ dance to get a better sense of body awareness?

Sarah Bullock: For me dance, somatic awareness is key, as is working with sound the resonance of ones voice and ‘where we speak from’, for me delvers different messages. the more awareness we have of our own body and voice, the energy patterns and emotions means that we can deliver and teach from a stronger and more authentic place…

Katie: Can you say more about somatic awareness Sarah? I am really interested in what that is and how I might get involved.

Sarah Bullock: Somatic awareness – ‘simply’ body awareness – you can track emotion, feeling, energy, trauma etc in the body by being ‘body aware’, breath, stillness and movement help me personally. Authentic movement, body ‘unwinding’ writing, drawing, voice, breath -all add to somatic awareness.

Nilisha: Yoga and dance both are great means! Though I personally haven’t done either, I certainly know of people who are acutely aware of their body and emotion states through these practices. I have found counting my breaths helpful. That just gives me enough stillness to identify what is happening inside of me. And allows my voice to have weight without being high in volume. It also allows for silence

Bo Pah Nah: Although I practice yoga regularly I think theater/acting workshops have given me better body awareness.

Nilisha: Bo Pah Nah, what kind of body awareness has acting allowed you to have?

Bo Pah Nah: I am more aware of my postures and what it indicates/ expresses Nilisha.

Katie Jackson: As Bo Pah Nah mentioned theater activities here is a link to our PYE workshop activities toolkit. There are some great ones in there:

Tanaya Thomas: Yea dance is something I’ve done to experience life and learning differently. Also, more recently I’ve been looking at juggling as a practice. I work as an administrator at a circus school and during the summer camp after lunch all the students spend 15 minutes practicing juggling-scarfs, juggling balls, whatever. I find it refocuses and awakens the mind and the body.

Nilisha: Tanaya, juggling sounds really interesting. I agree how it refocuses one. I did try learning it. Could you tell us a little more about your dancing practice?

Katie: That’s a great idea Tanaya. I am actually dyslexic and I found that learning juggling/ poi were fantastic for helping bring the right and left sides of my brain together. I haven’t done that for a while. Must dig them out…

Nilisha: Loving the sharing here! So rich and helpful! Anyone uses a writing practice for this awareness?

Bo Pah Nah: Hmm…writing for body and voice?? Interesting!

Katie: Hmm, a writing practice, how interesting. I usually think of writing as taking you out of the body a little, but when I think about it, when I write I do feel in tune with myself. Yes, interesting, tell us more Nilisha.

Nilisha: Katie and Bo Pah Nah: I believe that voice can be expressed in different ways. The written voice is as powerful as the spoken voice for me. So when I undertake a practice like free writing about my current feelings and emotions or just using a metaphor to write about my triggered states, they have the same effect on me as it would if I were to become aware of it through meditation. So it is using writing voice to talk about your body states. It is the same effect as Poetry perhaps.

Katie Jackson: How interesting – I love that you introduced that idea! That’s just shifted my perspective

Nilisha: Thanks, Katie! I learnt that from Nadia!

Bo Pah Nah: That interesting, to know, Nilisha Mohapatra

Sarah: I love free writing….taking a word and seeing what flows.

Nilisha: Sarah, you mentioned body unwinding writing. Could you tell us more?

Sarah: Body unwinding….ummm focusing in, tracking to the point of tension, the fulcrum and then seeing how my body wants to unwind from there – by unwind I mean move…just allowing the movement – staying curious, witnessing my body and seeing the moves, shapes, patterns it may want to make – observing the ‘still points’ where it then moves to a different place.

Nilisha: Oooh that is some amazing deep work Sarah! I would love to try it out soon and share my experiences with you.

Katie: Wow Sarah Bullock – this is really interesting stuff. Thanks for bringing that perspective!

Padmaja Nagarur: I subscribe to the idea of somatic awareness…and I’d add ‘awareness without judgement’ – of heavy breathing when you’re nervous, of brimming joy when something spectacular has happened or of simply, the thoughts running in your mind as reactions to situations. And watch all these with amusement and not judgement. I’ve discovered that the more I do this, the more I am willing to share about myself with me.

Nilisha: ‘Watch all this with amusement’.. captures the essence of mindfulness!

Mayan Patel: I also use yoga/somatic practices for body awareness
Some useful things I find before facilitating:

-Laying down, body scan and releasing tension. Feeling my weight and gravity. Focus on Letting go of everything.

-Circling all of the joints in my body has me feel lighter and more spacious

-Gentle bouncing and shaking, increasing intensity and adding sound. Great way to wake up.

-Massaging my jaw and face.

-Waking up my feet by rolling them on a tennis ball or with hands.

-Conscious breathing or a technique like Ujjayi breath.

-Drink water and pay attention to how it travels inside your body and sensations.

-“Small dance” – stand still and place attention on all the micro adjustments your body makes to stay upright.

-An alternative to Sarah’s unwinding, when i teach yoga sometimes I have students focus on what feels loose and free (as opposed to the tension) and work with expanding that freedom through the body.

Katie: Wow! Mayan, that is so cool.

Nilisha: Thanks for sharing these awesome practices, Mayan! So glad you stopped by to add to this discussion.


Nilisha Mohapatra: Discussion Question #3:
What are some of your favourite activities/practices to involve the body and voice of groups you work with?

Nilisha: From the top of my head, I love check-ins which involve a movement and a sound. That kind of initiates a holistic learning process. Like take the shape of your emotion right now.. Or if you have to express your current state of mind in animal sounds, what would it be.

Bo Pah Nah: Theater improv and the warm ups like passing the sound ball leading to Theater improv.

Nilisha: Yes I love those! Even name games and songs with movement. What say?

Bo Pah Nah: True Nilisha Mohapatra…action songs have always had a great impact.

Nilisha: Making Melodies!

Padmaja Nagarur: Group rhythm, songs with free movement, sound circle, dance circle, image theatre, theatre improvisation.


Nilisha Mohapatra: CASE STUDY

With a group of young people at risk you have just facilitated an intense session where each one of them has shared personal stories of their struggles and inspirations. The room is heavy with emotions and silence. You feel triggered too. Going by the theme of our discussion today, how will you close this session?

Bo Pah Nah: I would love to sing a song and have the participants sing too…very soothing.

Nilisha: Yes! I feel it strengthens connections and heals.

Bo Pah Nah: Wondering if a gratitude circle would help lighten up the emotions?

Sarah Bullock: heart gratitude circle – some form of sound/movement clears the energy of the room and the group- need to release the emotions raised in the body and field out otherwise it gets ‘trapped’

Nilisha: I would do Gratitude Circles too, with a song/movement, as Sarah mentioned. Passing the energy through a light squeeze when holding hands, humming together is another favourite of mine.

Bo Pah Nah: Oh yes Nilisha..a quick and simple one that! Had forgotten. It is effective too…kind of reassuring in a way.

Padmaja Nagarur: Oh yes…a song with light swaying. And I’d love to close with a huddle but I haven’t tried.

Nilisha: A huddle would make for a warm safe space Do let me know when you try it! I guess it would work well with young people.


The next Facebook assembly will take place on September 18th at 4pm GMT (5pm Cape Town, 12pm Rio de Janeiro, 11am Toronto, 9.30pm Bangalore, 8am Seattle/Vancouver). Just join this Facebook group to take part.

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