I came to the Next Stage Facilitation program as a yoga teacher and a teacher trainer. As a woman of colour in an industry where I am often the only one in the room, I have become deeply passionate about bringing more diversity to yoga and to reaching more communities and people with the practice I love.
I believe wholeheartedly that change begins within and that yoga, a practice that leads us back to the truth of ourselves over and over again, is uniquely positioned to help make change in a world that desperately needs it.
Because of that, and because I am a community leader in my home city, over the past couple of years I have been seeking more tools to help me lead, guide, teach and facilitate in a number of spaces and ways to help make positive change in my community and the world.
What I loved about the Next Stage Facilitation program is that instead of simply heaping on knowledge and practice, it first looked to find what might be hindering me. It was a kind of unlearning before the true learning could begin.
What I found in that practice was a truth that allowed me to finally begin to overcome the things that were truly holding me back. The Ten Directions team created a space which fostered growth, encouraged bravery and permitted us to be vulnerable, and in that I was gifted the most amazing six weeks and a chance to meet myself more than once within them.
For me, in all things, the struggle has always been my own confidence. This inability to trust myself. I am learning, fully, that the things we can’t offer ourselves are the things we will struggle to offer others. During the six weeks I spent in facilitation and learning truly opened my eyes to how fully my uncertainty and insecurity undermined my ability to trust the people I am facilitating.
Before this program, I believed a good facilitator moved a group from point A to point B. It scared me that I wouldn’t be skilled enough to manage all the people and thoughts and opinions. I worried I wouldn’t be able to make sure we got to where I believe we needed to go. I was terrified something would be left behind or left out if I couldn’t control what was happening.
It’s why I hold on so tightly to driving a group towards a pre-determined end. It’s why I could not forego my fear and have moments of emergence, joy, and yes— even greatness—in group facilitation. I was so caught up in managing a situation, in getting it right, that I hadn’t quite grasped how to trust myself or the people I was facilitating. What I learned was that fighting so hard to “get it right” meant I’d been unwilling to be present and to surrender to what emerged when the moment required it.
I was finally learning that what is meant to unfold requires the co-creation of the whole group, myself included. What I loved about this approach is that it showed me how facilitation is a practice in compassion. Compassion for myself, in failure and success, and for those I am working with. And trust, though challenging for me, is the most compassionate act of all.
When the time came to facilitate a conversation in group with my peers, I felt so supported and prepared. It ended up being playful and fun, and I was able to relax into the challenge. I watched myself in moments of anticipation, evolution and discovery.
I began to see that I wasn’t separate from a set of skills or rules I was trying to apply – I was a vital part of what might unfold and arise.
It isn’t my job to herd a group towards a set out end – it’s up to me to walk with them towards a goal. Sometimes that goal becomes the experience, and only when I’m certain enough of myself can I trust that what might emerge can far exceed where I ever thought we might go.
I’d come prepared for an undertaking I might struggle to be ‘up for’. I’d expected to be faced with how far I was from being capable. Yet what I found instead was a way to be grounded in my own strengths, abilities and certainty.
I was able to build upon the foundation of my own sense self, skills and abilities in a way that allowed me to be as I am, and yet equipped me in a kind of knowing to be and become better. It was joyful, and loving, and rooted in compassion.
I began to see that not only could I learn more about myself during the six weeks I participated, but that I was building a way to move more certainly through all of my undertakings and relationships. I learned to trust that I have everything I need within myself; and yet there are so many tools that I can continue to foster that will only make me more capable, whether it be at the front of a room, or leading a group, or in my own life with the people I cherish. To me that is the most amazing thing I walked away with.
Nikki Martin is a writer and full-time yoga teacher living on the Eastern shore of Nova Scotia. Her love of stories, both reading and creating them, started very young, and with the release of her first fictional novel, A Momentary Darkness, in August of 2018, and its follow up The Beginning’s End (coming in June 2021) comes the realization of a lifelong dream. She has become a passionate advocate for diversity in yoga; working hard to make her classes accessible, empowering her students to look within for what they need, honouring the tradition of yoga and all it encompasses, and working in her community as a leader to make change. In her time off, you’ll find her near the ocean, in the woods, or under the stars, forever listening for another story to share with the world.