By Shawn McAndrew
In March 2020, the Hoffman Institute had to stop its in-person programs. Our signature program, the Hoffman Process, could not be held due to a little thing called COVID-19. Other in-person programs, such as the Q2 and Relationship Intensive, were halted as well.
Adjusting and Creating
At first, we – like most of the world – thought we could re-open our doors in a matter of weeks or a couple of months. Yet, almost a year and a half later, the way we do things is still altered. Fortunately, we were able to start Processes again a few months later, with reduced capacity, limited exposure, and many protocols in place to protect our students and our staff and faculty.
It has not been an easy time, and we have adjusted. So much so that we never fully stopped offering programs. We quickly devised new programs that were held virtually and were accessible to a new group of people. We created the Virtual Q2, then Hoffman Essentials, which was a bridge for those who wanted to do the Process but who had to wait until we could be in person again.
Design Team Extraordinaire
The Hoffman design team, which consists of Hoffman teachers Andi Saucerman, Linda Hartka and Nita Gage, worked with Hoffman’s CEO Liza Ingrasci and faculty director Matt Brannagan to create and launch the new programs. Along with the Virtual Q2 and Hoffman Essentials, other new programs include Spirit-Guided Visioning, Path to Fierce Compassion and Forgiveness, and Deepening Intimacy – all of which are 2- or 3-day programs. New webclasses and virtual Refreshers were created as well.
To understand how these new offerings were created so quickly, I spoke with the design team members.
The Creative Process
“We base our programs on the Cycle of Transformation,” explains Andi. “One of our key intentions is to make sure that we’re always looking at embodiment. A big part of what Hoffman is about is experiential learning. Those are the key elements we look at when we’re designing a program.”
According to Linda, “There’s a period of brainstorming. What is the inspiration (for the course material and direction)? First, there are the elements that we’re figuring out, then figuring out how it should flow.”
Nita adds that “We also reference the Process teaching guide. We’ll pull pieces out of that and read them, and re-work them to be appropriate online. I think it’s important that this goes back to the teaching guide and the original concepts (of the Process).”
“I’d say Spirit is a major driving force of our creative process, too,” Andi says.
A Team Effort
As far as who comes up with program ideas, the design team insists it’s a team effort.
“We thought we’d all be back in the classroom by May,” Andi points out. “So, we thought, ‘Let’s support our grads during this time!’”
At that point, the virtual Q2 was created, and the team started working on a virtual program for couples (Deepening Intimacy), and teleclasses/webclassesA Program Is Born
Andi continues, “Then Liza came to us and said, ‘We need something for people who are on the wait-list for the Process until we can open our doors.’ That’s where Liza came up with the idea for Hoffman Essentials. The Spirit-Guided Visioning course was Matt’s idea, and the Path to Fierce Compassion and Forgiveness was us (the design team).”
She goes on to explain, “It’s all from the same Hoffman ‘soup,’ so to speak. For example, take visioning. We do visioning on the first day of the Process, on Tuesday, and touch on it Wednesday and again on Friday. Visioning is such a rich topic.”
Filling the Need
Since visioning is one of the most popular virtual classes that Hoffman offers at the beginning of the year, it was a natural progression to offer a visioning program. “It gave us a chance to say, ‘Whoa, we get two days to work with visioning?’,” Andi says. “It gives us a chance to expand and play with the pieces.”
By expanding and playing with the different pieces of both the Process and the new programs, one of the silver linings of this mad scramble has been to design new takes on the Hoffman tools, practices, and exercises. These can then be updated in the Process and other programs.
Linda talks about how, when they were composing the vindictiveness exercise for the Path of Fierce Compassion and Forgiveness program, they were able to create a more impactful exercise. “It’s something, as a teaching body, that we’ve been kicking around for a while.”
Another silver lining that emerged was how Hoffman programs can work both in-person and online. Nita explains that they were nervous about the first virtual program they created. “‘Oh my God, how are we going to do this online?’ But we had some weird trust in it. After that one (the virtual Q2) went so well, it gave me a lot of confidence. ‘Okay! We can do this.’ We didn’t have to perseverate about, ‘Is this going to work online?’ We got a little more relaxed about it. ‘It’s gonna work!’”
Finding Formulas that Work
Andi continues, “We found a formula that worked. We thought about screen time. We didn’t know if people would buy into doing a Dark Side stomp virtually. They’re in their own home. We designed a document about how to create space at home, which let people know that this is serious.”
Going virtual has worked, and really well. “People dive into the work,” Andi says. “We were reading comments (from class evaluations) saying, ‘This is the best money I’ve ever spent.’ ‘This is changing my life.’ The feedback tells us the power of the tools that we have. People’s lives are shifting just from two days!”
Willingness to Jump In
Linda makes an observation about people who may identify as introverts. “They don’t have to leave home. They can step off screen to do their cathartic work. They don’t have to give up their cell phone and be away from their family. So there is an openness – a willingness – to jump in.”
Linda continues, “My experience of teaching the Hoffman Essentials is that the participants were so much more willing to really commit to what we were asking them to do because there is a level of safety from just being in their own homes.”
Accessibility for All
Accessibility is another plus of these virtual programs. “It’s more accessible for more people – financially, location-wise, and more,” Nita explains. “That’s something we hadn’t even thought about. It’s a really important aspect of this.”
Travel, hotels, and other pre- and post-program expenses and coordination are bonuses. People are learning how to create a sacred space in their homes, a place that can continue long after the program has completed.
“A lot of them talk about how the virtual experience is more powerful because it’s in their home,” Nita reflects.
“It anchors that they’re doing the tools and practices in their home,” Andi adds. “It anchors the work more deeply.”
A Contribution to the Organization
Teaching programs virtually is also a bonus for Hoffman teachers. For teachers who live in other countries (such as Spain, Mexico, and Canada), the virtual courses give them an opportunity to continue teaching when many countries have closed their borders or restricted access in and out. “It feels like a contribution to the organization in so many ways,” Nita explains.
But going virtual in many ways is not to say that we can do the Process virtually. So much of it is about in-person learning and experiencing. These virtual programs have been a bridge for many people until we could open our doors again. They are also something we can offer while people wait for a slot to open up for the Process, since we’ve had to limit the number of participants as part of our safety protocols.
The Creative Process Is Spirit
Overall, there have been so many new insights and learnings from the past year. It’s allowed for expansion, enlightenment, rethinking, creativity, and so much more. More people have benefitted from the Hoffman work than we would have imagined prior to this pivot.
“We offer so much depth and experience,” Andi summarizes. “I think that’s what people have been in awe of. It’s life-changing. That’s what we keep hearing and seeing. The fact that we can do these courses virtually has been amazing.”
“So what’s the creative process? Mostly it’s spirit,” Linda concludes.
06/28/21 at 3:02 PM
This is a wonderful reminder that even though doors closed due to COVID-19, the Hoffman Institute didn’t stop its important work. I love the creativity of the design team and all the staff, and find this inspiring. I am so grateful to all of you!
06/29/21 at 9:57 PM
Thanks, Tami. We’re grateful for you, too!