Start a Bohmian Dialogue Group

nliuvogFor 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


8 thoughts on “Start a Bohmian Dialogue Group

  • August 8, 2018 at 10:26 am

    Hello Andrew,

    I’m looking for a group where i can participate to a Bohm’s dialogue online. It has been many years and seems like i cant find people Who actually knows about it around me.


  • August 8, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Hi Sylvie, welcome. Make sure you’re signed up on the site and you’ll get an invitation to this when it happens next. Won’t be too long and there are other groups doing something similar there as well!

  • August 16, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m interested in participating in a Bohmian dialogue group.

    Thank you!

  • August 16, 2018 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Steve,
    Great! Make sure you’re signed up at my site (this page for example) to hear about upcoming Bohmian Dialogues!

    The Enlivening Edge Community Conversation we did today is quite similar to it (that’s the third Thursday’s Enlivening Edge call). You might want to come to try that out!

  • January 23, 2019 at 2:25 am

    I don’t think it has to be called a Bohmian dialogue group. That’s a bit exotic for the non-intellectual, and I think an intellectual bent could in fact prevent the practice from becoming widespread. It’s talking in a circle of 20-30, on a regular basis, without an agenda. With just enough structure to survive the painful initial period, it should form its own structure, and assumptions will be explored even if no one talks about “proprioceptive thought”. Before Bohm, Patrick de Mare called it the “median group” based on its size being between small and large. The size of 20-30 is important, they say, to opening up the window to society and culture. As for anyone seeking out an online “Bohm dialogue” group, wouldn’t it be better to assemble one locally? We need working examples locally.

  • January 23, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Hey Matthew, thanks for writing. It would be perhaps ideal to be in one locally, and I am blessed to be in one myself. But it takes a lot of creation-power to form an intentional group; many or most people would falter. Online CAN be powerful and beautiful and the international connection is a value too. I don’t have experience with 20 to 30 people in a group, more like 7 or 8. With a larger group, in my experience it’s good to break out into small groups so people get heard and hear others closely. In a larger group they can feel like they’re performing – this has often tripped me up.
    And yes, it doesn’t have to be called a “Bohmian Dialogue” group for sure. Blessings to you and the Commmons!

  • March 12, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Andrew, I would like your help to clarify Bohmian dialogue as I am confused. Is it a form to conduct any dialogue? Because I have heard Prof. Bohm in the past in what I would have defined as a dialogue. A dialogue between him and Krishnamurti, dialogues with other people who were interested in thought, consciencness fragmentation and so forth. There were not what I recall rules except the basic obvious ones to listen to one another and open mindedness and similar obvious means to enquiring an issue of common interest. But they were not his rules.
    And sometimes people sat in a circle. But the basic rules were obvious to me as it wasn’t the first time I encountered dialogues. The content was what made the difference.

    What I have now read up on the subject seems to be interested in the form. Like group mediation (?) or similar processes of community healing, or
    Peace Circles with a wider content than restorative justice. Is that what is meant by Bohm dialogues?
    Or I have missed something?
    Thanks, Michal

  • April 18, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Michael, sorry I missed this comment and here I am very late. I’d be happy to offer one online soon and you could experience, much better than these words. There’s a worlds to say but just a few things. It’s true Bohm didn’t write any rules but let it happen. The guidelines that I and others have been using were formulated after (by Tom Yeoman of the Concord Institute). They seem to allow a frame in which ordinary people can shift consciousness in the direction of the consciousness Bohm was aiming at. Many people find the guidelines useful and since Bohm isn’t here, they’re a great place to start. In my opinion, you could deepen with them and “evolve,” if you had the courage to do so with the other Dialoguers. My in person group’s been doing it for almost 20 years and is perhaps just getting to that now. 🙂
    From my experience, the content is not the thing, the context is. The context, which allows for safety and, well, all the things that the guidelines point to, is the important thing. All this is a practice!
    Contact me again if you want more. Use the contact link above if I don’t respond. Perhaps I should do one soon for those interested. Take good care!

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