Orientation to the work of the group
This group has two elements: the group process on the one hand, and meditation and mindfulness on the other. These two elements are intertwined and support each other reciprocally. However, it is helpful to discuss them separately. As the group process is the main focus of the work, and the part that occupies most time during a single group meeting, we will explore this first.
The group process
The group process is intended to be a therapeutic process in this kind of group: a process that leads to increased understanding of oneself, new capacities of interacting with other people, and development of new and creative ways of expressing onself. The group process takes place through the vehicle of the freely flowing verbal expression and discussion among the members of the group.
There is no pre-determined theme, structure or tasks. Each member is free to talk about their own feelings, thoughts, memories, reactions, associations, metaphors, symbols etc that come up as a response to what is going on in the group. This develops the group’s own self-organizing intelligence, which arises in the moment and is not pre-planned. As a member of the group we are each contributing to this intelligent process, and in turn, we are each impacted by it. This is an example of the saying «The whole is greater than the sum of its parts».
Even though there is freedom to say and express whatever one feels, observes or thinks in the group, there are still some recommendations you are invited to consider and try to apply that tend to foster the kind of environment that supports the transformation and development of the self:
• Try to be as honest and concrete about what you feel, experience and think. Our main orientation in this work is toward the truth: the concrete truth of experience. We humans have a big tendency to hide what we really feel, either out of shame, guilt or anxiety about the reaction that might come from the other. This kind of group is a unique kind of social arena in that, here, interpersonal openness, vulnerability and truth is encouraged and welcomed. As trust develops in the group over time we can allow our masks to fall.
• Let the others in the group know how what they say or express impacts you, or what it means for you, or how you view what they are talking about. This way, both simliarities as well as differences in experience can be brought forward and articulated. This increasing differentiation enriches the whole group. Likewise, be open to consider what others mirror or feed back to you about how they experience you. We can learn a lot about ourselves through the eyes of others.
• Cultivate a sense of curiosity and adventure in exploring yourself, the others, the group process itself, and how it relates to your current life and your past history of relationships, in family, school, with friends and so forth. Remember the main insight of modern depth psychology: the way are now in our current life is in large part a result of experiences in early relationships. The unique strength of group work is that it provides an arena or scene on which we can see our own personality and relational patterns begin to play out. This is a good thing, because then we can work with this material: to experience it, understand it, and then begin to see what lies beyond it.
• Cultivate an empathic stance that seeks to understand the other from within, to see his or her unique point of view, as it may be similar or wholly different from your own. This is not the same as always being nice and cosy with each other. It can sometimes mean confronting others, ￼saying our truth bluntly. A blunt statement of truth can be much more helpful, and actually be a greater kindness toward the other, than an attempt to cosy up to them or avoid what what is painful.
• You are welcome to express your frustration, dissatisfaction, disappointment and anger with the group. There will be times when you feel as if this is not helping you, it’s going nowehere and you lose faith in the work. During these times there can arise a desire to leave the group prematurely. If you can express this in the group, then we can work with it, try to understand it – what it’s about, where it comes from – and see if there is truth to it. Often these times carry a big potential for change in ourselves. We can experience that it’s OK for our anger and our separateness to be in the group, which in turn can lead to a new freedom.
• Know that as a group member, you are an integral and important part of the group. Your contribution is important. Your presence is important. Not only what you say or contribute verbally, but the quality of the attention you pay to others, matters and has an impact. Thus, if you feel disengaged and that what happens in the group feels not relevant to you, know that you can actually shape what is going on by simply re-engaging. You can have an important impact in the lives of others.
Meditation and mindfulness
We will work with two practices in this group: 1. Concentration meditation and 2. Mindfulness through sensing, looking and listening. These are mutually reinforcing practices, but develop different capacities.
1. Concentration meditation
We will start each group meeting with a period of concentration meditation, of about 15-20 minutes. The object of concentration will be the movement of the natural breath at the level of the belly. We aim to get progressively more in touch with the felt sense of our belly expanding and contracting slightly as the breath moves in and out.
As we become more focused and can abide more in our belly, we will get in touch with a particular center that is located there, approximately three finger widths below the navel, and two finger widths inside the belly from the front. This center is mentioned in many different traditions, from Tai Chi and Chi Gong, to the martial arts and many wisdom traditions. It goes by different names, such as the Hara center, the Dan Tien, or the Kath center. After working with this practice for a while we may find it better to shift the focus of concentration from the breath to simply being aware of that center itself.
This practice has three main aims. First, as we develop deeper contact with our belly and this center, we strengthen our capacity to be present, particularly in our bodies. This center is the center of embodiment and the center of bodily movement. By «waking it up» we increase our embodied presence. This has several benefits, one of which is that it becomes harder for us to leave our bodies mentally in stressing or anxiety provoking situations in daily life. We feel more grounded and solid. Another is that we become more sensitive to our body and its intelligence, being able to notice more subtle shifts and needs in the body and respond to them appropriately.
Second, this practice excercises our capacity to concentrate. When we begin the practice of directing our awareness to one specific thing for an extended amount of time, we come to notice that our mind has all kinds of other things it wants to be engaged with: thoughts, memories, plans, ideas, feelings and so forth. That is perfectly natural and to be expected. Our task is simply, when we notice we have become distracted, to let the distraction go, and the bring our awareness gently back to the breath. Each time we do this, we excercise our muscle of concetration.
Third, working steadily to establish one’s own daily meditation practice routine outside of the group excercises our will. Our will has to do with a sense of confidence and commitment that we can carry through with things: with our plans, with our intentions. As our will is strengthened it gives us a sense of support and structure for our life. Being steadfast with a daily meditation practice, even if it’s just for 10 minutes each morning, builds this inner sturdiness and confidence in our capacity to stay the course and carry through with anything in our lives.
2. Mindfulness: sensing, looking and listening
After the concentration meditation, we do a practice for 5-10 minutes aimed at strengthening our mindfulness, that is, our capacity to be aware of what goes on inside ourselves and outside. This practice has three parts.
First, we start by sensing our way through our arms and our legs, like a body scan. We end up, then, sensing both our arms and our legs. We choose to focus on the arms and legs because they are easier to sense and get in touch with, and also because they do not normally carry an emotional charge, as the torso can do.
Second, while remaining in touch with our arms and legs, we add listening: to be aware of any sounds coming to you, in a receptive, non-analytical manner. One is simply aware of whatever sounds, and whatever stillness in-between sounds, there is, without commenting, labeling or doing anything about the sounds.
And third, remaining in contact with the arms and the legs, as well as our listening sense, we begin to open our eyes and let visual impressions come to us: light, colours, shapes, forms. Here too, we try to be as receptive as we can, not immediately going into conceptual designation or reaction toward what we see. Instead of going out to the objects and forms we see, we let the visual impressions come to us.
Then, as we progress into the main group process session, we aim to stay anchored as much as possible in our sensing, our looking and our listening. Whatever we explore in the group, we can always come back to these three points of awareness. This will support us to be more attentive to ourselves and what comes up inside us during the group session, as well as help us notice what goes on with other members in the group. We aim to have at least 50% of our awarness in ourselves and what goes on inside ourselves while being in contact with the others in the group.
This is also a practice that we try to carry as much as possible into our ordinary lives. Most of us do not live our lives with 50% awareness in ourselves; we are constantly taken here and there by external stimuli as well as our own thought process. Anchoring ourselves in this awareness of our body, our sight and our hearing, when we go about our day, can profoundly change the way we experience our life.
The group is on-going and there is at the moment space available for new members.
Contact us if you want to apply to be part of the group or have any questions.