The Workshop Experience
Fundamentals of the Rebillot Approach
The Rebillot workshops are highly experiential and weave together many elements to form creative and powerful journeys of self-discovery. They are designed to help people discover and express their own inner drama in ways that are both safe and creative. The workshop structures support the integration of body, heart, mind and spirit and aim to guide participants towards an experience of wholeness, healing and well-being.
The interlaced strands which make up the tapestry (perhaps ‘magic carpet’ would be a more appropriate term!) of the workshops are: Group Experience, Gestalt Practice, Music, Movement, Dance, Image-making, Drama, Improvisation, Myth, Meditation, Ritual, and Time in Nature. (If any of these strike you as intimidating, don’t worry! There is nothing here that is beyond your – or anyone’s – capacity).
Connecting and belonging are at the heart of being human. The group – participants and facilitators together – co-creates a ‘workshop space’ where we all can feel safe enough to make ourselves known to ourselves and to each other. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with others – in whatever way is appropriate for us – can, in itself, be profoundly healing, both when we share and when we witness another’s story. In Rebillot workshops there are opportunities for play and encouragements to explore, to try something new. We learn from and with each other. Attention is paid to group dynamics so that energy can flow freely and so that each participant can experience the support of the group.
“Ritual events in a group context create a sense of interpersonal and social cohesiveness, tribal bonding, and a sense of community.” (Grof, 1992)
Gestalt Practice is a process of self-discovery, a way of becoming more fully alive. We focus on maximizing our awareness of what we are experiencing – our awareness of what is actually happening for us now – taking in all the dimensions of our being – physical, sensory, perceptual, emotional, cognitive and spiritual. In particular, the enhanced awareness that is at the core of Gestalt Practice brings us into closer contact with our feelings as they ebb and flow, changing from moment to moment of our experience.
We enter into and experience vividly each of these aspects of ourselves, initiating dialogue between them if we find that they are in conflict with one another. The goal of the process is to move towards a greater integration of – and deeper contact with – ourselves and towards a clearer sense of choice in our lives. [N.B. It is not necessary for workshop participants to have had prior experience of Gestalt Practice].
The Expressive Arts
Imagination, play and humour are of central importance in the Rebillot approach. The expressive arts – image-making, dance and movement, drama and improvisation, music and sound – are all integral parts of the workshop processes and all of them can bring us into a deep awareness of the realm of the somatic, the sensory. Music and song open us up to feeling and story; posture and movement open our consciousness to the experience expressed in that posture or that movement.
Making images is a physical process which renders sensations and feelings tangible and can make it easier for us to put language on – and make sense of – what is happening to us.
We know from neurobiological research that the ‘coming to our senses’ which is implicit in all the processes of the previous paragraph helps us to tap into our inner experience, and supports our natural healing ability. In addition, this ‘bottom-up’ approach – body-based expression and processing – is supported in the workshop process by more ‘top-down’ exploration through the use of metaphor and fantasy, in dramatization and myth.
Some of the workshop structures are based on myths from European or other cultures. As has been observed by many authorities on myth – Joseph Campbell and James Hillman, for example – these ancient stories express deep truths about the human condition. Bringing ancient archetypal figures to life – embodying them in re-enactments of mythic tales that have been told about them for millenia – can help to illuminate our daily life with the penetrating light of the eternal. Through experiential participation in the narrative of the myth, we can come to understand the archetypes from within, owning and integrating them into ourselves.
Meditation and ritual
Each Workshop day begins with a group meditation and ritual, the purpose of which is to bring the participants and leaders together in a ‘sacred space’ in preparation for the inner exploration that follows. Similarly, the day’s work is brought to an end with a ritual of closure. The practice of meditation helps us to be present to ourselves, in our sensations, our feelings and our thoughts. It helps us to be still and to hear the deeper voice within us. The chant that we use in the meditation practice helps us to calm and connect with ourselves and each other.
Time in nature
Connecting with the natural world and experiencing ourselves as part of the natural world, is essential for well-being and wholeness. Hence, time to be in the beautiful outdoors is another very important dimension of the workshop experience.
Paul Rebillot’s brilliant pioneering work, which we in The Fool’s Dance Gestalt Company are privileged to continue, anticipated much of what today’s advances in neuroscience and the neurobiology of transformation are showing to be vital for growth and healing – i.e. the importance of the somatic, the benefits of meditation and play and the role of music and sound.