The structuring of our groups and trainings is not preset, but rather is allowed to spontaneously arise in fitting accord with the energies and needs of participants. This keeps the work — and teaching — fresh, vital, alert, immersed in a flow akin to that of good conversation between intimates, a flow that dynamically supports openness and breakthrough. The “container” for this work is perhaps best described by the classical Greek word temenos, meaning a sacred enclosed space, a vessel or environment in which transformation and optimal learning occur.
Our groups and trainings feature a dynamic mix of psychospiritual guidance, gestalt, bodywork, spiritual deepening, dreamwork, relational dynamics, and emotional opening, along with fitting instruction. All the work is intuitively done in the context of everyone’s innate wholeness. For a sense of what happens in such an environment, see Our Groupwork in Practice below. In our trainings there is, of course, much more teaching, but this is not done not apart from all the personal work that is happening, arising instead in intimate conjunction with it, so as to optimize whatever learning is happening.
Our Groupwork in Practice
Groupwork, as we (Diane and I do all our work together, except for my men’s groups) practice it, includes not only the best of individual session work, but also abundant opportunities for healing and awakening made possible in a safe-to-go-really-deep interactive environment. And what are these opportunities? Consider a “typical” first morning of groupwork with us:
After a greeting from us along with a description of how the group will operate, participants (sitting in a circle on the floor and on chairs) take turns introducing themselves, saying, among other things, a bit about what they’re having trouble dealing with and what they’re hoping to get from being in the group. Inevitably, several get quite emotional doing so. When everyone has had their turn, I begin working with one person.
For anywhere from one to three or so minutes, I gather relevant information from that one, zeroing in on what’s troubling or challenging him or her, and then begin deepening the work, through whatever fits at the moment, be it Gestalt, psychodrama, conscious movement, guided meditation, or, more often than not, bodywork combined with psychotherapeutic direction. This usually brings about considerable energetic and emotional release, along with fitting insights. The work may finish with the person, considerably more open, returning to their place in the circle, or perhaps facing the group and deepening their contact with everyone, or mining their work for further insights into their life. Diane and I may then discuss what’s just happened, emphasizing that each person’s work is, in a very real sense, everyone’s work, encouraging everyone to let themselves fully feel each person’s work, and to suppress what they’re feeling while another is working.
Often the next person who comes forward to work has been deeply stirred by the first person’s work and opening. By the time we’ve worked with the second participant, the whole group has come together, providing an ever-deepening environment for deep healing and awakening. When a piece of work is particularly moving, obviously affecting most in the group, we’ll sometimes have them gather around the person who’s just worked (who may be lying down on a mat), close their eyes, and stay there for a while, during which time Diane may play some fitting music or may lead some kind of healing sound.
After that’s done, we may work with a third participant, or have some group discussion. Things are wide open now. The group has become a sanctuary for very deep work, without trying to be so. There’s plenty of anger, tears, passion, and laughter. There’s tacit permission for everyone to be in as much pain as they actually are. We are often amazed at this point to look at the clock and see that only an hour or so has gone by.
More work follows: Someone exposes and works with a difficult relationship they’ve had or are in, and as they do so, others who’ve been in or are in a similar bind gain insight and inspiration for working with that bind; someone else works with a feeling of isolation they keep having, exploring its roots and cutting through their isolation, and as they do so, everyone else feels more connected; someone else who feels powerless does deep work regarding this, eventually contacting a place of such power in themselves that everyone cannot help but celebrate with them; and so on.
In such groupwork, one person’s work can catalyze others’ work to a depth very difficult to otherwise access. The sharing of such work, level upon level, in an environment of intimate safety and trust is as liberating as it is practical, as heart-opening as it is empowering, as integration-promoting as it is clarifying. Initially, the opportunity to self-disclose is sometimes shyly or reluctantly approached, but after a short while, opening thus becomes not a burden, but an ease, a liberating exposure; opening up thus does not necessarily mean having no boundaries, but in fact often is about opening to the need for clearer, stronger boundaries.
When we can be open about being closed, compassionately present with our resistance to our work, we are not so far from being what we are seeking; when one person in a group does this, all usually feel a deepening inner permission to do the same, shedding “shoulds” and tuning in to what really matters. This is not to uncritically praise groupwork (for it has its own pathological possibilities, such as the overriding of individual needs by group needs), but to highlight the very real benefits that it can abundantly supply.
We encourage everyone to share their intuitions at various points during a participant’s work. Toward the end of the morning session, we usually have participants sit in pairs, and lead them through improvised dyadic exercises (like completing incomplete sentences while maintaining eye contact with each other). We almost always finish with a group circle, during which I’ll often teach a little meditation, and then have everyone let their voices flow out as Diane leads a healing chant. Ten or so minutes later, and the morning session is over…