Thursday, April 02, 2009

Innate Intelligence: The Eyes of the Mind

Back when it was still known as "Laughter of the Heart", I trained in a breakthrough method of public speaking conceived by Lee Glickstein. Speaking Circles made a huge impact in my life, because, like improvisational comedy, which I'd discovered years earlier, it was a safe space in which to allow your essence to emerge: distinct from other forms of speaker training, the Speaking Circles model wasn't about criticism, but confirmation. We were encouraged afterwards to share how each of our impromptu talks felt, and then to receive brief, positive feedback from the class members. Criticism of any kind (especially self criticism, which many of us were all too willing to offer) was verboten.

The result? People with PhDs would get on stage and simply dissolve in tears, because being implicitly accepted just for showing up is such a rare and needed experience.

Now, Lee has extended this form of fearless self expression that he calls "Relational Presence" to a population one might not expect could benefit from speaker training: people with developmental disabilities. Yet as Lee discusses in this moving article, teaching people how to connect through breathing and eye contact crosses all perceived boundaries; it's a bridge to everywhere. It provides a platform for anyone's innate intelligence to shine through, in all its loving glory.

Truly, it seems, the eyes have it.

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