on facilitating
paratheatre group work

© 1977-2019 Antero Alli
UPDATED AUGUST 25th, 2019.


The overall aim of facilitating groups in this paratheatre medium:
to suggest objectives, methods, and ritual designs that amplify and evoke the underlying
dynamics and existing conditions innate to each individual and the group as a whole.

Effective facilitation in this Paratheatre medium requires firsthand experience of its many ritual structures, techniques, transformative processes, as well as insight with the various pitfalls and dangers that can arise during this group work. Though there may be exceptions, in my opinion effective group facilitationrequires the completion of at least five Labs (each Lab running 7-12 weeks). The role of the facilitator is not the same as director, or teacher, or guru, or therapist. The facilitator is more like a group's "third eye” , perceiving the innate dynamics of each session of group work and then, suggesting objectives based on the observations of existing group dynamics, objectives that the group fulfills in its own way. The following "facilitating tips" have been distilled from the past forty years experience in this Paratheatre medium. - Antero Alli


Certain powers of observation are necessary to detect the present-time moods, needs, resistances, and the overall spirit embodied by any given group during each session. These observations can begin the moment participants enter the space and start moving about. The five-phase physical warm-up cycle is a good time to observe individual and group levels of commitment and energy, or lack thereof.
It's time to determine which methods and ritual forms to introduce after the warm-up -- based on the comitment levels demonstrated in the warm-up. The higher the commitment shown in the warm-up, the more conducive the group becomes to engaging ritual sources of greater charge and depth.

Any source presented in this Paratheatre medium is presented as an existing condition, meaning, as if the source already exists within us. This approach minimizes preconceptions and beliefs about whatever source is presented to better support a more direct experience of the source itself.
Proceeding as if the source already exists within us minimizes the mental hijacking of the experience before we have a chance to engage the source firsthand.

Don't speak before observing. There are changes occurring out there on the floor as the present-time group dynamics unfold. At any moment be ready to adjust your suggestions to align with the influx of new information from the group. During the rituals themselves, participants experience the facilitator as a disembodied voice. Avoid suggestions that spell things out or define things too much or require any thought to understand them. Keep suggestions simple, direct and somewhat open-ended. Participants want to have an experience, not an explanation. Allow time between suggestions of objectives; participants need time to discover their own responses and processes. If you're tense, participants will hear it in your voice. Participants already have enough resistance to deal with without also having to deal with yours. When in doubt, don't speak.

Energetic dynamics are constantly percolating beneath the threshold of any group and individual consciousness. The facilitator must learn receptivity to these subterranean currents. You can start this by relaxing "self-investment". If you become too personally involved or invested in outcomes, participants will pick up on it and can often resist your suggestions. You are there to support their involvement, their investment, not yours. Create space for the participant's emotional involvement by removing your own. The facilitator is a ritual catalyst; any true catalyst never undergoes the same changes as the catalyzed.

The first attention is that awareness linked to language, thinking and the assignment of meaning (labels); the first attention creates interpretations of what is perceived. The second attention is that awareness linked to presence, energy, and phenomena without assigning interpretation or labels; the second attention allows for direct perception of the existing energetic dynamics and phenomena without immediate ssignment of labels and meaning. The knowledge and use of both attentions is necessary for effective facilitation of this paratheatre work.

Depending on the first attention alone can impose a preconceived plan or idea onto any situation, whereas the second attention allows for the uncertainties of the present time - when the situation becomes the "boss". If first attention can be trained to follow the dictates of the second attention, we can find words and language to more truthfully serve the situation itself. Without an active second attention, effective facilitation in this medium may not be possible (also see "The First and Second Attentions").

Better to end cool than hot. This work activates the energetic body; the Central Nervous System is stimulated and "lit." At the end of each session, suggest a final ritual that engages a cooling off process, rather than one that leaves everyone hopped up and wired. Restoring balance and equilibrium is a good rule of thumb here. A longer, deeper No-Form helps diffuse the effects of highly charged rituals.

The sitting group circle that ends each session provides an opportunity to check in, share notes, and voice perceptions. After a particularly charged ritual, participants may be silenced by what happened; don't press them to talk. Those who are ready to talk, will speak. The aim of the group circle is to simply report what happened. If participants start espousing philosophies and theories about their experiences, gently nudge them back to their actual experience, i.e., "What happened to you ?" "How did you relate to what happened ?" Though philosophical discourse and psychoanalysis have their place, they also can distance us from experience itself.

Abridged from material excerpted from
"Towards an Archeology of the Soul" by Antero Alli


site map