Mindfully Sharing Together
For me, the essence of a Dharma Discussion is that we are bringing together, in community, the Dharma (the teachings) with the experiences of our lives. It requires us to be both analytic and expressive:
Expressive, in the sense that we are speaking honestly and openly, from the depth of our hearts. Essentially we are saying: “This is how I really am, please help me grow.” Or “This is how I was and this is what I have learned.” Or “This is how I am and I want you to know.”
Often when I explain Dharma discussions I suggest we “talk from our hearts,” “listen from our hearts,” and “be of lean expression.”
When we talk from our hearts we talk from the center of our being, we are in touch with the life force that is in us. There is passion and there is engagement. We are talking about what really matters.
When we listen from our hearts, we are truly present, in mind and body. When our mind wanders, we come back to the present moment, to the speaker and to the situation. Like Avalokitesvara, “We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid.”
Being of lean expression simply means we are brief. Like a poet, we say what we need to say and no more. We are aware that others in the group also wish to share.
Recently I discovered that these three aspects or intentions come from “The Way of Council.” It is method similar to dharma discussion which encourages deep sharing in groups. Instead of bowing in and bowing out, they pass a council stick. When I looked further, I found that Jack Zimmerman, the originator of the method has added a fourth intention: “Spontaneity” which asks us to trust ourselves and the group more. He explains:
the talking piece moves around the circle, a flood of memories and thoughts may
be triggered, each one of which is a candidate for sharing. Trying to hold on to
these while waiting to speak can be overwhelming. To counteract this tendency,
set the intention not to rehearse what is to be said. The importance of this in
regard to listening is obvious: Preparing an agenda while others are speaking
limits the ability to listen attentively.
may also limit the ability to speak from the heart. Freed from the need to
prepare, the ordinary mind is more likely to step out of the way and let the
more intuitive voice speak. Holding the stick silently for a short while and
letting the presence of the circle and the moment evoke what needs to be said,
somehow dissolves habitual reactions and attachment to long-held positions.
Perseverance with this practice leads to the realization that everything that
feels important at the time doesn't have to be spoken. Council teaches us that,
often what we forget to say is either not essential or will be brought to the
circle by someone else.
we learn that each voice in the circle, including one's own, is part of the
larger "voice of the circle." We speak personally and, as an aspect of
this composite voice, simultaneously. In order for the transpersonal quality to
fully emerge the I-better-prepare-because-I'm-nervous part of us needs to get
out of the way. Veteran members of a circle come to trust that when they are
handed the talking piece, everything they have already heard in the circle will
have been internalized and integrated with their personal associations and
memories in just the appropriate way. They come to trust that they will say
exactly and uniquely what the circle needs to hear from them in that moment ...
This Thursday evening, after our regular 7:30 sitting, as our Dharma Discussion, we will work with the Four Intentions of Council in small groups and in a large group. Our question will be: In what ways does the practice of mindfulness allow me to share myself more fully with others? Or not? To help us slow down our tendency to respond immediately to another person’s sharing, either before or after we have bowed into the group, we will breathe in and out for at least three breaths.
From to we will continue our tradition of having an informal discussion focused on basic mindfulness practices and mindfulness in daily life. It is an opportunity for new comers and more experienced practitioners to ask practice questions and share experiences in a small group setting.
You are invited to join us this Thursday evening.