For the past four or five years I’ve been in a group that’s been practicing the Dialogue process, based on the work of David Bohm. It’s a remarkably stable and powerful “field” that the group, generates meeting after meeting, and a wonderful connection and friendship between members.
Here’s a bit about it and what you need to start one where you are.
Prominent nuclear physicist David Bohm who’s interest was “the unified field” spent much of the energy of his latter years trying to develop a practice to directly experience that field. He called his process “Dialogue.” His hope was that dialogue, would help participants free themselves from their limiting assumptions and enter into a conversation that was beyond them. His discursive notes on how to do this are reminiscent of the spiritual instruction of a zen master. Part of his understanding is that it’s our insistence on what we already know that keeps us from being open to what can come just beyond that. The higher consciousness is separated from us, as Huxley famously said, by the thinnest of veils.
One of the reasons the group works so well are the guidelines we use. The guidelines were developed by Tom Yeomans of the Concord Institute, based on the more general principles of Bohm’s Dialogue. My slightly amended version below is designed for virtual space and also leaves out a small therapeutic component. If you read them over, you’ll get a feel for the process.
The way we do it, we meet a half-hour early, as much as we can, to get settled in. We choose a timekeeper and read the guidelines – each person reading one or more and passing it on. Then we have a ten minute silence and .start. People share if and as they want to. Sometimes there are long silences. During the Dialogue itself we’re guided by the guidelines and they seem to work very well.
I’ll offer a Dialogue online in mid-January and will be sure to let you know. Here are the guidelines.
Guidelines for Shared Mindfulness
Shared Field: Work in the mindfulness of a shared field, one that welcomes the whole of you and of all the others also.
Slow Down: Slow down from your habitual pace of interaction and take all the time you need to listen to yourself as you are now, to notice the common field, to express, to interact.
Breathe: Breathe fully and rest in this rhythm of breathing as you participate in the group.
Silence: Tolerate, accept, and welcome silence in the group, either when called for by a group member, or when it falls spontaneously. There is no need to say anything.
Truth of Experience: Speak the truth of your experience as it rises ready to be spoken. This includes fresh noticings that come as a surprise to you, and also, harder to express, the experience of being disconnected should that come.
Deep Listening/Presence: Listen to each other deeply and with presence. Let go of rehearsing your response, or strategizing.
Welcome/Appreciate Differences: Welcome different perspectives and appreciate others as they are. Hold the differences as a creative part of the group’s experience, not as something to be avoided.
No Blame/Judgment: Suspend judgment/blame of self and others and practice simply being together, breathing in the common field.
Hold Intensity: At moments of intensity in the field, hold this experience in your awareness without reacting, or trying to do anything about it. Let it live in the group and be contained within the circle.
Welcome Unknown: Let the unknown of your and others’ experience simply be, rather than seeking to explain or control events immediately.
Patience: Have patience with the workings of the group and the time it takes to grow and change, both individually and collectively.
Enjoy the Process: Enter into the moment-to-moment changes in experience, both necessarily constitute the multi-dimensional process of shared mindfulness.
Adapted September/2014 by Andrew MacDonald from the Concord Institute’s 1995 Dialogue Guidelines
I’ll be hosting a Dialogue online in early January. Make sure you’re signed up for emails to hear about it!