What I Have Learned teaching on Zoom
Updated: May 6, 2021
I’ve been facilitating circles of music since 2001. Joyous moments of gathering with others, making music, fun sounds, laughing, playing, learning, grieving, releasing, gathering insights, having breakthroughs. In these circles, a canvas of life has been filled with our colors and our design.
The circle is innately egalitarian, and unlike rows, allows for presence and inclusion. Nothing is missed. We can all see everyone’s facial expressions, eyes, smiles or lack of, nuances in the movement of facial muscles, body language, how you are breathing, where the tension is, and without knowing it, we are unconsciously gathering information from each other that allows us to attune. If we are listening, our attunement guides us to information about who we choose to connect with, whether or not we feel safe or connected to what is happening, whether we feel at ease and included, if the the mood is light or heavy, and whether people are holding intense material or are ready to laugh?
All of these pieces of information, and more can potentially be gained by sitting in a circle together. As a facilitator, setting a container of safety has been my first job at the top of a circle. Sometimes I have done better than others…Always learning as I go along.
When the pandemic hit and we were forced to shut down our live music making, ½ my income suddenly disappeared. It was devastating. Not only financially, but emotionally because the momentum I was riding on was suddenly pulled out, and because I had never taught online. I do not know what the future of my career in a post pandemic world is.
My first attempt teaching online was messy, to say the least. As the months have gone by, I have forced myself to practice in order to learn what translates and what doesn’t because I truly miss being with students and singing friends. Think of all the frowning faces you’ve seen looking at your screen as they “figure out” settings… I have improved as the months have gone by, and I can navigate several different technical functions while teaching now. I give myself and all of us props for having faced these learning curves so quickly.
My main takeaway is that whether it is online or in person, only 50% of the safety can be created by the facilitator. The other 50% is created by you, the participant and how you show up. It has become glaringly clear to me that the trained tendency to respond to the many bells and whistles going off in our technology is a barrier to presence when we are using technology to connect. If we set the container with a strong intention and request participants to be as present as possible given the fact that we might be at home, and unplanned things can take place, we can create a space of presence.
However, even when your mic is unmuted, I am limited as to how much I am able to feel what is happening with you. What allows us to co-regulate together, and to feel the experience on a somatic level is sadly lost online for most people. I can’t stress enough the importance of co-regulation when we are inviting participants to take part in something that may be new to them, or perhaps remotely risky such as making music with others. Making music can bring up so many insecurities and inner critical voices. Creating a space for people to feel safe to “try” is essential. While I am happy for the opportunities that have come about for me to teach online with folks I have never been with before, as well as some of my regulars, I would not trade the live experience for the world.
I look forward to once again sitting in a room, or outdoors, looking into your eyes, breathing with you, and feeling you at the micro-cosmic and atmospheric levels of your being. So that with this information, I may know step next in a direction of the kind of synchronicity that only making music can bring.