How Mindfulness Facilitators Can Lead Through COVID-19
By Wendy Quan, guest contributor
Everyone knows about COVID-19. This is a time filled with volatility, fluidity, and uncertainty, followed by fear, worry, or anxiety. Now more than ever, it’s important for people to learn mindfulness and meditation tools to deal with these stressors.
It is a perfect time to mobilize our skills as mindfulness facilitators to go online and open our reach to more people.
If you have been trained as a mindfulness facilitator, you know the delight and relief people experience when discovering these practices. You have embodied these practices for yourself and have the desire to help others practice. In this time of isolation and fear, it’s time to ground yourself in these practices and begin to offer this to more people. This ‘ethical opportunity’ is now here.
If you’ve been thinking about going virtual with your mindfulness sessions, now is a perfect time. If you haven’t yet done virtual sessions, it may be time to start. It takes a bit of practice setting it up and learning the technology, but it is well worth it. It will open up audiences for you that may not have been available before.
Here’s my small case in point: I run a small intimate in-person meditation sitting group with typically 25 people in attendance. Just last week I decided to cancel it and offer it online. Just from this group wanting to share this with loved ones, the registration for my online session shot up to 90 in just a few days. The potential reach is amazing.
In this article, I will cover some of the key things that a mindfulness facilitator can do to continue providing support and guidance to people remotely.
There are many different technologies, so these are the main ones that my facilitator community reports they use most often.
- Web conferencing using virtual meeting applications – some popular ones are Zoom and Skype. Of course, if your organization already subscribes to a particular one, you may not have much of a choice in what you use. As more people work from home, they may become more used to video conferencing and even excited to use it for a virtual session.
- Phone only, using a regular phone or conference line with no video.
- You may be fortunate to have a computer, laptop or webcam that has a good quality microphone, but if not, you’ll need to select some type of reasonable quality microphone to use.
- If your computer doesn’t have a built-in camera, you can get a webcam. Your cell phone’s camera is also a possibility if you decide to run a session using your cell phone.
- Make sure you can hear your participants clearly, whether that is through your computer speakers, earbuds or a headset. A headset typically provides the best microphone quality, which is important in engaging your audience.
- Test the quality of your internet connection. If your internet lags during a video call, it may be best to facilitate using audio-only. If others may be using the same connection as you, ask them politely in advance to allow you the bandwidth you need to facilitate your session with no delays and without your connection breaking up.
Engaging a virtual audience is different, and perhaps more challenging, especially if you are developing the facilitation skills quickly and under these stressful conditions. It is definitely doable and will become easy with some practice. Here are some ways to engage your audience virtually:
- Show yourself on camera – either keep your camera on so that participants can see you. If you are rather shy about this, consider showing yourself on camera at the beginning of the session and then switch to sharing your screen to show a nice, relaxing photo. For higher engagement, it’s best that you keep your camera on especially when you are interacting with the participants.
- Look into the camera as much as possible rather than looking at your screen.
- Give participants the option to turn their camera on or off. If their camera is on it gives you the option to check on them to make sure they are doing okay
- Provide a warm greeting to everyone – if time permits and it’s a smaller group, it’s nice to be able to welcome each person.
Practices You Can Lead With COVID-19 in Mind
- Acknowledge the emotions that people may be feeling such as fear, anger, irritation, etc. Have them sit quietly in awareness of their thoughts just for a minute or two, noting where they feel this emotion in the body, and regard these thoughts with gentle compassion. This is a great opportunity to allow people to notice emotions and sensations in the body.
- Run a Letting Go meditation where you focus on the breath, and with each out-breath, exhale worry, expectations, irritations, etc.
- Note the fluid nature of this subject, knowing that everything changes and so this will change and pass as well.
Take Care of Yourself
Day-to-day life is being disrupted in many places and I’m sure you are feeling this too... As a mindfulness facilitator, it’s not very difficult to learn how to run sessions online. Experiment with running virtual sessions with friends and family so you get comfortable quickly. Then expand the offering to wider audiences. You may be surprised how quickly this catches on.
And remember, as you give your time and energy to others, please don’t forget about yourself and your own needs.
Do whatever you need to do to de-stress, whether that is your own, private meditation practice, a walk outside in nature, or whatever helps you relax, feel centered and feel at peace. Even as we help others, it is essential that you focus on your own needs and energy levels as well so you can continue to help others as this isolation continues.
And finally, to all the wonderful, heart-centered and caring mindfulness facilitators around the world, I thank you for all the compassionate work you are doing to help others. Currently, there is a great deal of anxiety and panic. With technology and virtual sessions, we can expand how we help our communities in this time of need and isolation.
Wendy Quan, founder of The Calm Monkey, is an industry leader, training and certifying mindfulness meditation facilitators in the workplace and combining change management techniques with mindfulness to create personal and organizational change resiliency. Wendy has an extensive corporate background in Human Resources, IT, change management and mindfulness. She is a thought leader speaking at conferences and summits worldwide.