The essence of dialogue is to explore the possibility of pausing, looking, and listening, while speaking happens in a shared space. In this pause, we are able in a new way to hear ourselves as we speak – as well as everything else that is happening here, all simultaneously.
This space provides the possibility of seeing in an instant how identified we are with ideas, opinions, theories, belief systems, images and emotions – taking them as truth.
We can experience directly how these identifications can separate us from each other as we defend them – as if their loss was a life-and-death matter. As we feel attacked or hurt and then attack back to get even, we can be aware of how this creates suffering. It is possible to see that those patterns are not owned by anyone; they are universal, aren’t they? We all share the same conditioning.
Dialogue is not group therapy. It doesn’t pretend to change anybody or tell them what to do or not to do. Nor is it a vehicle to exchange opinions or to discuss or analyze a problem, but rather to see all of this as a habit of the mind in dealing with life’s problems. Dialogue isn’t a forum to tell stories. If they come up to illustrate and to help clarify something that the group is looking into, that’s fine. Anything can be food for the looking together, in this collective listening that functions as a mirror. By asking each other, “What do you mean by that?” or “Where are you coming from?” we can help each other clarify what we are trying to say, and get in touch with underlying motives.
We can also participate by being silent, looking at our reactions to what has been said, or just by being here, participating in the gathering of this energy of looking/listening together as one.
We can call it meditation in action. Beholding it all! It takes place here and now, and is not bound by time. Meditation is that instant when one wakes up to the fact of daydreaming, judging, blaming or indulging in guilt – when the stories become transparent and are seen for what they are, just stories.
There is the clarity of realizing that we are not those patterns, but rather this alive darkness of not knowing. We see that the looking and listening really don’t need the thinking mind. It is in the wordless apprehension of what is that understanding and learning take place.
Then language can be at the service of intelligence – connecting, not dividing. In this way, dialogue is an alternative, a fresh way of being together, sharing words in silence.