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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:33 pm 
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A 'soft shoe shuffle' is an amazing moving conversation and it can offer you a new exciting way to teach and learn. Teaching is often seen as a one way from the teacher, who knows towards the student, who receives.
The ‘soft shoe shuffle’ can be used as a tool in order to reinvent teaching and learning. All what is already known can surface and contribute to the learning experience for students and teachers. There is an atmosphere of teaching and learning from both sides.

This atmosphere is enhanced when we allow vitality and aliveness to enter the process. I introduce the ‘Soft shoe shuffle’ as a tool to achieve this atmosphere.
‘Soft shoe shuffle’ is a practice of Deep Democracy. Deep Democracy is a methodology developed to foster a deeper level of dialogue, inviting a variety of opinions in a safe environment. It is adapted from the process-oriented work of psychologist Arnold Mindell. (
The practice of ‘soft shoe shuffle’ was further elaborated by Myrna Lewis and contributes to the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy. The Lewis method is a specific facilitation approach that helps groups in turbulent and complex situations to break through their stuck places and move forward with inclusiveness. (

What is a ‘soft shoe shuffle’? It is having a conversation on your feet. A method to listen to many different voices also the whispers. Everyone stands in a circle. The facilitator introduces the topic or the question.
Anyone can step forward and make a statement expressing an opinion or belief. The other participants then show where they ‘stand’ relative to this statement. They move either closer or further away from the person who spoke.
The facilitator can invite a participant who is standing apart from the rest to express his or her view. Again the others are invited to move closer of further.
People standing close to a person who spoke, may have their own comments and shadings to add.
The conversation continues, everyone is participating, no matter where they stand. As more views emerge, some people may find that they change their position several times.
While more views surface, something happens in the room between the participants and the positions. This ‘something’ is the content of this article.

You are invited to embark with me on a new and exciting learning experience. The ‘soft shoe shuffle’ describes a new way of teaching ‘and’ learning around referrals in a healer/client relationship. The practice happens in the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. A school teaching personal process development and energy healing. The students follow a 2000 hour, intensive four-year program. (
There are forty students and three teachers attending this specific course, part of the third year curriculum.

I guide you through the experience and add the teachings where they naturally fit. In reality the students received a document with the harvest of the meeting and the appropriate teachings added in another colour.
For your convenience the descriptions of the movements in the room are written in italic.

Our question for this particular ‘soft shoe shuffle’ is: “How is our relationship as healers with referrals?”

A participant shares: “Referrals are safe.” The group already changes positions, some agree, others disagree, several are undecided.
Another participant expresses: “It is hard because I cannot find a good physician to refer to, also for myself I cannot find a good physician. I discount traditional medicine.” Several people take new positions. The energy in the room is more engaged, people become eager to share.

A teaching enters in a natural way.
This last comment can be very apparent in clients. They may be scared or angry towards traditional medicine. Sometimes they had bad experiences themselves or their relatives. This can all contribute to their resistance to seek medical or psychological advice.

The same participant adds: “A solution would be to try them all out.”
One of the participants close to the one who spoke expresses: “When people talk positively about physicians or other health care professionals I listen well and keep a mental note.”
Another participant who is close says: “I set an invitation to the Universe and what I need comes to me.” This evokes a movement in the group away from the last speaker. More divergence occurs spontaneously.

At the other side of the room a participant shares: “I don’t know how to build a network, I would like to and I am scared.” Several students agree and move towards the speaker.

Another teaching enters our emerging field. The larger view of a unified integrative approach that includes referrals is helping both the client and the healer. It is important as a healer that you look at the places within yourself where you perceive fear or anger and either collude with your client or withdraw from your client.

A participant mentions: “I don’t want to be on an island alone, I want to share the responsibility.” Several students agree and move to this position.

This is another teaching opportunity. We have several reasons to apply referrals. A referral enables a client to make the best choices for their own healing, as information becomes available. The client has access to other forms of treatment that in fact may be helpful.

We continue our conversation around ‘responsibility’. A participant wonders: “Is it my responsibility to create a healing team for my client?” The students move around, confusion is almost palpable.
Quickly another participant adds: “A solution would be co-creation, not doing if ‘for’ my client.” There is still confusion in the room, and more convergence occurs around the last speaker.

A participant exclaims: “A healing team is much more then a referral.” Movement again occurs, there is still confusion.

I ask one of the participants who sits aside to share, she brings it back to the referrals: “I am a big fan of referrals, a client needs to be able to choose because everybody is different.” Students move around in the room. In this moment more convergence surfaces.
A participant positioned near to the one who spoke adds: “I would like to know who is similar, who is good, who spends personal time with the client and makes contact.” This again evokes movement, people converge a bit more.

Many participants want to share at the same time. It is a vivid exchange. One of them says: “I need a support system for myself and I need others to be able to discuss the cases of clients.”
Through referrals and creating a healing team you have support as a healer, you can if appropriate and agreed with your client speak with the other health care providers.

A participant returns the whole process to responsibility, this is feature of a meaningful conversation, we often circle back towards the issue that really matters until we are as a group ready to reach a higher level.
She says: “The client needs to decide for him or herself.” A new wave of divergence is visible in the room. This statement gives rise to mixed feelings.
We come to the question: “What if the client cannot take the responsibility?”
Clients who might commit suicide, who have cancer and refuse to see a physician? Again a wave of palpable confusion in the movement of the students.

We reach a new level. A participant says: “I check in the beginning if I am the right person for this client.” Relaxation happens, participants move toward this speaker.

Again a teaching opportunity surfaces. The importance of self-responsibility is touched. How do we access our inner authority? Find the place of integrity within us and ask the question if it is ‘right’ for us to be with this client. Are we prepared? Our bodily sense will inform us with regard to this new client.
A great deal of information is available through the internet, learning to access this information is supporting if we are working with clients with specific conditions.
Eventually we can use the first session with our client to clarify the client/healer relationship. If the client experiences a condition that might require a healing team, eventually a physician or other therapist we can use this first session with our client to explore any fears or resistance in the client preventing them from getting possible essential assistance on their healing journey. This can be an opportunity to explain to a client how getting as much information as possible around their conditions and available treatments can give rise to making informed choices.

Our field emerges further. One of the participants is eager to share her personal experience. She relates: “I don’t want to be victimized, I want as a client the healer to create a healing team or arrange referrals with me, not for me, I want as a client to trust and be trusted.” This adds a great deal of fluidity to the conversation, the client is made much more real.

This brings us back to responsibility and the patterns in the client/healer relationship. The positioning in the room almost makes a triangle visible.
The triangle connects the positions of the victim, the perpetrator and the saviour. These patterns are very often active in a client/therapist relationship. The positions are not fixed, once entangled in the triangle we often shift positions. Lynne Forrest offers a huge body of knowledge and practical information around the working of this triangle. (
We can invite this triangle as a tool to get to know ourselves and the other. How does the mechanism of this triangle work in referrals? How might it prevent us as a healer to make a referral? How can it evoke distrust in our client when we make a referral? How to invite the client out of the victim position?

If you create a healing with your client, you can research the possible therapists together. And come to understand how this can support you both. You may be able to discover a comprehensive and integrated approach. It is as our last participant shared deeply about trusting and be trusted, both the healer and the client.
It becomes apparent how trust embraces the three positions in our triangle and can assist us to transcend the triangle.

A silence unfolds. I look around in the room.
I ask one of the participants who is sitting at the side of the room and engaged in a vivid conversation with her neighbor to share her insights. She comments: “I perceive a difference in the curriculum of the healing techniques in the third year. With these very specialized healing techniques it is more difficult for me to discern if something happens in a client. I am more insecure as a healer and might more easily make referrals. I notice that the healing techniques taught in the second year evoke more emotions in the clients. I feel more secure and consecutively might make less referrals.” The students shuffle around again.

This last contribution gives rise to this new statement. A participant shares: “I perceive fear to hold physical ill clients.” Several students move towards this speaker.
We circle back towards the statement: “Referral is a bridge.”

In the middle of the room a participant shares: “I am in myself lost between the healer and the physician within myself.” The room reveals this split through the movement of the students.
This split might exist in all of us and is the split between the physician/mind/science and the healer/body/spirituality.
It is a huge invitation to bring this split into our awareness. The split will greatly affect how we handle referrals as does the triangle.

A great deal has been shared already, we approach the end of our assigned time for this experience.
A participant is frustrated as she wanted to share already for a while: “I am angry, I feel confused, I had to contribute something a while ago, and at this moment it does not seem to matter anymore.” This sharing creates more convergence in the room.

As a facilitator you hold space for everything that wants to surface, this includes emotions and feelings of any participant. All what is present contributes to our emerging field. The invitation is to trust the self-organizing process of the teaching and learning experience. Trust that confusion is a necessary step in order to let go of our preconceived ideas and achieve a higher level of connection to source.

Another participant adds: “I perceive a huge need for supervision before I even consider the act of referring.”

This contribution allows us to access a teaching that covers the support for the healer. As a healer a supervisor offers you support for your level of profession and personal development. Many supervisors in many different areas are available.
Through your client/healer relationships issues can be triggered, defenses may arise, transference surface. Personal process work assists you to deal with these aspects.

We come to completion with our session. One of the participants weaves the whole process together: “I am not a healer, or a physician, I am love and energy. Whatever happens I trust.”

When we are able to trust we access our potential, we become more then we believe is possible.
We feel safe in ourselves, we know what we like and dislike, we access our inner authority, we are able to create meaningful relationships with clients and allow referrals to happen naturally, a transformational conversation unfolds, we have an ability to reflect and we get to know ourselves more.

This is only a short experience and yet full of possibilities. Students are more engaged, they more fully contribute to the learning experience. They have a bodily experience through the movement as if they are invited to literally ‘walk their talk’.
In the engagement between the teachers and the students a process unfolded that created a content that is much more encompassing and rich then the original outline of the course. The content is captured in the document that is delivered after the session.

This content can be seen as an emerging field of knowledge. This is the ‘something’ that happens through the practice of the ‘soft shoe shuffle’. Students and teachers achieve a ‘felt sense’ of the material of the course. A ‘felt sense’ is a term from Gene Gendlin’s philosophy and means the whole of our experience that encompasses our thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations taking into account all the environmental aspects.(
This ‘felt sense’ is the magic of the new way of teaching and learning and achieved through this ‘soft shoe shuffle’ practice.

The whole practice demonstrates that you can start anywhere and allow the process to continue where it is ready to go. We all have many opportunities to start with something new, try a new practice, do something in a different way then we always did it.
The results are extraordinary.
The only requirement is trust in the self-organizing process of teaching and learning. Trust that whatever has to be known is already available.
This is true for teaching, seminars, workshops, any kind of client/therapist/coach/facilitator relationship.
It is a doorway to an amazing realm of opportunities, the field of endless possibilities which is in fact accessible for each of us.

I hope this inspires you.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:11 pm 
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Dear Veerle, thank you for this sharing and all your insight! I am certainly inspired!

My curiosity is strongly called to the phenomenon you describe where the configuration of participants in the room started to reflect an actual psychological theory: the Drama Triangle. It makes me wonder to what extent the emerging group wisdom influences the positioning of participants: would they be more likely to assume specific geometrical positions because of the "morphic field" strength of the pattern that is emerging, or can they manage to stick to their own position, quite literally, in the face of an emerging geometric pattern?

I suppose what I am pondering is the interaction and physical manifestation of each participant's learning process in relation to the group wisdom. And that makes me very curious to try this for myself... Would it be like in Family Constellation work where the mere fact of standing in a specific position in relation to the rest of the participants would give me a certain "wisdom" automatically channelled / embodied through and in me, or is this more a process of learning through the longings and aversions of my body to certain unfolding spatial positioning?

In any case... fascinating reading, for which I thank you again!

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