Group Dialogue is a way of looking and inquiring together – of wondering and being curious about what is here right now. It is different from a discussion group where we share what we already know. The spirit of group dialogue is to be open to not knowing, to be open even to what is unknowable.
So we gather in silence, and wait quietly to see if there is something that wants to be spoken. Often, words come forth quickly, and at other times, we may be silent for a while. In normal social situations this can feel awkward. But in group dialogue, there is a quality of being together in a companionable silence, of enjoying the quiet presence until words start to come. And if you would like to be silent during group, you may just listen to what is being said.
Our emphasis in group dialogue is on listening when someone is speaking. Of waiting, of pausing with our response – to really listen to another person’s words, to hear the resonance of what someone is saying, to feel the essence of what is beneath the words. And when we respond, to be mindful of jumping in with something we already know. To perhaps stay with it a little longer to see if something new and fresh might come forth – listening inwardly to see what we are experiencing, to see what is emerging here as well. We may be surprised at what we discover.
One of the wonderful things about group dialogue is that we are entering into a social talking situation within the spaciousness of silence – where various feelings, reactions, and judgements may come up. There is space to be curious about what happens when we interact with each other, to experience the various responses that are coming up in us, to listen, to see into this too. To be with whatever is going on, with emotions and conflict, with insights and openings, with the feeling that what we just said wasn’t good enough.
Sometimes we are feeling our way into the kinds of experiences that are beyond words, that don’t fit into our usual paradigms. There is the possibility of pausing, of seeing into what is here, of opening our hearts and waiting to see if words come that hint at and point towards what often cannot be named.
Group is most helpful when we keep things close to home by speaking from our own experience. There may be parallels in the writings of wisdom traditions and well known teachers, but it is wonderful to look into our day to day living experience and articulate our own inquiries and discoveries.
The spirit of group dialogue is one of being together in mutual affection – of helping each other as we open up and reveal the subtleties of this wondrous and unfathomable experience of being.
So, some simple guidelines:
To listen without interrupting
To be mindful of not dominating
To speak from our own experience