“Bringing the human in the room” - tale of our first ever Brussels SALT training in English

On February 17-19, Belcompetence ventured out onto yet another road to spreading the “taste” of SALT and CLCP in Belgium:  We conducted our first training in English!  We convened at a beautiful venue:  the co-working spaces of Transforma Bxl in Evere.  The energy in the place proved to be highly conducive to co-creating a fabulous learning experience for all.

And what a wholesome experience it was!  Participants came from all walks of life and from different parts of the world (not unlike other SALT initiation sessions).  They were welcomed with food, smiles and inspirational words (quotes were posted on the walls, and participants were invited to gather around the ones that spoke to them most and strike up a conversation. As usual, we started out by getting to know each other on a different level.  The stories around the personal items that people brought or the images they chose revealed their beautiful, vulnerable self.  The stage was set for working with each other in an authentic, open and honest way.

We had planned on explaining the essence of SALT by showing Jean-Louis’ video from the What Makes us Human? Book launch in Ferney-Voltaire.  However, we felt that the participants after the introductory exercise were well on their way to understanding that essence.  Instead, we invited everyone to plaster themselves with labels, labels they have received or adopted themselves over the years. After walking around with them, discovering each other’s labels, feeling their weight and limitations,  participants stripped them off and  got a feel for what it means to be free of them.

The following day, after fortifying themselves with croissants and coffee, participants shared their stories of strength, which further contributed to heart-to-heart bonding. The depth of sharing was palpable as some of these words, used to describe one another in their strengths, reflect: “courage, compassion, deep sense of perception, alignment, seeking authenticity, generous, humble, “eyes-alive”, tenacity, drive, uniqueness, idealism, intuition, “a giver”, curiosity, alchemy, “soft determination”, “ability in letting go and confidence in letting come”...

Later that same day, participants thought of a community which they were a part of and where they could be an agent of positive change.  We managed to create two slightly distinct types of communities, and off they were to creating their dreams. One dreamed of a workplace of “love unfolding”, the other dreamed of a community of enablers of self-growth, responsibility and holistic health.

We had prepared and printed out a fabulously worked out program to guide us throughout the two days.  However, it quickly became apparent that we simply had to go with the flow.  Participants became so engaged in their tasks, be it storytelling, dream building or having lunch together :) that we found it counter-intuitive to strap them into a time schedule.  And that is what was needed.  It gave each of us the space to explore, go deeper, truly understand what it means to be human and to be human together.  

Different points of view, cultural nuances, contextual differences all were brought to light and honored throughout the two days.  And that is what made it rich, so rich that at by Sunday evening, no one had the urge to go home.  Even though we were physically tired, everyone was buzzing with a different energy, the energy of knowing that if we dream together, we can achieve something together and create a better world.  One of the participant’s closing words was:  “The world would be such a beautiful place if everyone had the chance to go through such an experience!”

“How does SALT differ from other approaches?” asks a participant. The question is bounced back into the group, and here are some of the responses: "it’s about bringing the human in the room" ... "here, the content is the community" ... "the heart is present, which creates expansion" ... "our humanity is addressed and honored" … "the facilitator is transformed: we strip off labels, the facilitator shifts from being solely an expert to showing up as a human being", or "SALT gives us permission to allow the shared expression of humanity"

And we are reminded of Hervé Guidou, a French facilitator, and his now famous quote: “Collective intelligence is the answer, the facilitator is the question” :)

“Gratitude” just about sums it up - a wonderful experience it was!

Anita, Celicia and Renaud (A-C-D in Alphabetical order, as Anita would say :-D !)

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Comment by Célicia Theys on March 6, 2017 at 9:03pm

Thanks so much for your feedback dear Birgitta :) !!!!

It truly was an exceptional weekend, and a beautiful bunch of human beings in the room :)

The labels exercise we tried is inspired by the social theater work I engage with, here is a description of what we did exactly if you want to reuse it :) :

The facilitators hand out 5 labels per person. Each person is asked to find a corner of the room where they can work individually for about 5 minutes. These labels represent the labels/masks/titles that we usually “wear” in our lives, either the ones we wear proudly (such as our titles, diplomas etc.) or those that are stuck on us and that we dislike (stereotypes, discriminations, etc.). Each person is invited to choose 4 such labels and write each of them in large block letters on a separate label, then number their labels and try to memorize which label corresponded to what number.


Then, each person sticks their labels on their bodies.


We then walk around the room in silence, discovering each other’s labels.

Note: here I asked them to walk around and naturally try to balance out the space, make sure it was evenly covered by people, then I would tell them they were walking at a level 2 out of 5 in terms of rhythm, and ask them to move to a level 3, level, then back down to level 2, etc. to get them into their bodies and out of their heads. Then, I started to ask them to walk “as your label 1”, “label 4”, “label 2” etc. and to observe others as they walked around.


Labels are then stripped off and symbolically thrown in the trash.


Note: what we thought we would do differently next time is ask them to only remove the ones they dislike first, and then debrief on whether or not they want to get rid of their positive ones, and then go into the general debriefing that follows.


Debrief: how did the exercise feel? What struck you as you walked around and discovered each other’s labels?


The facilitator explains that the first (and one of the hardest) parts of the SALT posture is the decision to come to a community stripped bare of all of the labels/masks/titles that we usually hide behind in our social interactions: we come as human beings, and to establish a space that is non-judgmental and feels safe for people to exchange in a way that is genuine (and thus vulnerable).

Comment by Birgitta Schomaker on March 5, 2017 at 7:23pm

Hi Celicia and Anita,

I get super excited and happy when I read your report, Celicia!

The photos and your description of the energy in the group are so clear and palpable!  Wonderful how  you navigated with the group. 

And I love your way of building HUMAN connection by letting go of the labels! I am inspired by that and what to try that myself. Awesome!

It sounds to me like the two of you really created something special with this international group, and seeds are planted for continued and collective learning and application. Keep us posted!


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