Some years ago I went to ballroom and Latin dancing classes. “One, two three, five, six, seven”, I ‘danced’ to the rhythm of Salsa. (I haven’t made a mistake – there’s a pause). I just didn’t get it. When I watched the dancers in some discotheque I just couldn’t see the “One, two three, five, six, seven” for love nor money. After three years with these rational, emotionless, deconstructed dances I gave up .. everything.

What’s more, I already had the phrase “you’ve always had two left feet, Al” (said by my aunts’ friend a long time ago) carved irremediably into my skin.

Of course, Latins don’t learn their dancing like that. They feel the music. And they dance. Why don’t dance classes start from the dancing and the person? “After a demonstration, start dancing and we’ll come round and give you feedback.” I know lots of arguments why not – I’ve lived them.

I’ve just got back from some holidays where I went for private kayak classes. I asked to be able to eskimo roll and spend time on the river learning white water technique (Class 2 of course, for those who know).

In a class learning to eskimo roll on a lake years ago the instructor eventually said: “I just don’t know what to do with you.” Another label: ‘Useless’. I even find the videos on YouTube difficult. And don’t start me on knots – conceptually I find them really tough.

I don’t know if it’s me, the method of instruction, or both.

So what happened on my hols? Simply something wonderful.

It was a totally different way to help me learn. The guide, Gorka, gave me a demonstration of the whole roll, then the component part I would be learning. Only one. From then on … something I have never experienced before. And something so simple.

“I want to know your sensations. Tell me them. I want you to describe your feelings, your emotions. I’m really interested in that.”

He just wanted to know what I was experiencing. The rational side, the logic, the movements with the body, the kayak and the paddle… all that came later.

In essence, he started with my sensations, feelings and emotions (not even with me as a rational being with some experience of trying to learn to roll), and certainly not with the roll itself.

It wasn’t a surprise to learn that Gorka is interested in the role of emotions in learning, in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and neuroscience. I thank him for everything I learnt with him and for helping me to reflect on how I can improve in my work. (A bit of free publicity: Gorka collaborates with the company River Gurú in Murillo de Gállego, Spain).

Share that post: