The main starting idea was to use the guidelines of David Bohm?s On Dialogue: listening, suspending opinions, looking at the movement of one?s thought as it is actually happening; no leader, no theme fixed in advance; no direction, only a space for observation happening together. Is it possible for this observation to remain unidentified to a ?self?, a ?me??
Bohm advises that there should be a facilitator for the first three or four sessions in order to remind the participants of the intention. This, I would stress, is very important, as there will be some very strong desires to go in particular directions: a certain belief that a participant would like the group to adopt, a particular direction of thinking another member would like to establish, a constant need to modify the form of the dialogue, a need to go into a therapeutic treatment of personal problems, etc. All these ideas are part of the way thinking moves; the subtle part is whether the group and the individual can let these thoughts come out into the open without adhering to them. This is very difficult, as it is a revolutionary intention and many will resist it. This resistance doesn?t matter as long as somebody is able to point it out to the group.
we are there to make mistakes, reveal the often unattractive side of our natures
Sounds pretty straightforward; words and descriptions of intentions usually do. The doing of it is where the fun starts. I, for one, found that it is very difficult not to get caught up in ideas and emotions. I have found that an attitude of ?I am conditioned,? ?I probably will identify and get caught up? takes away the intention of having to be aware. Let everything come out as much as possible; we are there to make mistakes, reveal the often unattractive side of our natures. In this way some of us have learned a lot about our- selves and the movement of thought in general.
There have also been some very emotional times, with people getting upset, angry, crying and walking out. But the dialogue makes for openness around what is normally considered taboo and must be kept hidden, and the group is increasingly able to accept and stay with and receive behaviour that it would normally reject. The by-product seems to be that a new kind of relationship emerges in the group, a greater feeling of affection with people outside one?s existing circle of family and friends. After about two or three years, two members of the group tried very hard to steer the group in a particular direction of thinking. They stressed that it would be possible to achieve a state of freedom and new potentiality only if we all dropped the personal and moved together. I found this situation infuriating and then deeply fascinating, as one was able to watch how the mind moves and reacts. In this case the proposal was not illogical and definitely not unattractive. However, it remained a thought that the self had hooked onto and that it could not let go of. Here was a condition masking itself as a necessity. Is necessity the source of conditioning?
My thinking was more interested in its own actual movement than in fulfilling the demands of its content
One became witness to the movement and content of idealism in all its aggression and consequent lack of love: ?I want you to do as I think, otherwise I cannot be communicating or in relationship with you; I will go to any lengths needed to bring about this thinking that I feel is necessary.? This in turn gave rise to a good deal of resistance. One felt righteous in that resistance because it didn?t go along with the idea of dialogue. But wasn?t that one form of idealism opposing another? When I could see that this was just another thought that I was identifying with, some- thing relaxed and the mind became more interested in the fact that it was resisting. When this happened, doors opened and I saw how this identification and resistance was creating conflict. We can read this in K?s teachings, but this was an example of when ?you feel it in your blood?. The mind was seeing itself, seeing the movement of what is normally hidden to me yet very much operating nevertheless. My thinking was more interested in its own actual movement than in fulfilling the demands of its content, and let go of its traditional role as protector and turned into an inquirer.
Can we see the difference between an idea and a direct perception? The interesting thing is that human beings believe their thought to be direct perception. Thought establishes itself as consciousness on this exact premise: that thinking is a direct perception of what is. However, if thinking is directly observed, caught out as it were in the act, this illusion is instantaneously revealed. Consciousness based on thinking at times gives way to some- thing else. There is nothing other-worldly about this; thought just reveals itself as controlling perception and so naturally yields to a direct perception of a different dimension. I feel that in this dimension there are qualities beyond what we can think up, qualities somehow connected to the natural world. All this may sound like the way to enlightenment, but of course it isn?t. The thinking process is so accepted and held onto as the only mode of survival that our minds are naturally not inclined to see through it. One needs a good reason to do so. It?s only in the direct seeing of thinking unfolding and resisting that the mind learns about itself and its belief that thinking faithfully depicts reality.
It?s an ongoing understanding. Self- knowledge is a journey, not the reaching or moving towards a destination. But thought always moves from here to there, solving, becoming, gaining. Thought works in terms of moving towards a destination. There are, as science tells us, mental pathways. All paths in this case do not lead to Rome, but to a sense or idea of self. In this way thought itself is incarnated, is felt to be one and the same with being. It becomes consciousness. Thought is me, I am thought. Thought becomes my eyes, my listening, my feeling and all my perceptions.
Thought cannot have a relationship except with another thought.
There is nothing wrong with the movement of the thinking process, but to equate it with our only consciousness is obviously limited and limiting. Thought cannot have a relationship except with another thought. The thoughts we are identified with have relationships with other people?s identified thoughts. Thought constantly projects and so misses what is actually taking place, misses what a person or a situation actually is. But do thoughts necessarily have to be identified with a self? That?s our habit and it is imprinted as the truth in our think- ing. What would happen if all pathways of thought did not lead to self?
Let?s take an example: I?m typing this now; the thought comes into my head that it will be appreciated; I see it attaching to self, adding to its sense of identity and security. But this is seen and the thought lets go of the idea of its being necessary food for survival. It is seen, it leaves the mind, and is gone. Thought came to help solve one of the self?s problems, which is how to get love, and it leaves because it can?t solve the problem. Something that is without content, and so is nothing, sees that this thought only feeds the problem as it is feeding and maintaining the need to be appreciated.
Is dialogue a space where thoughts can be observed, their process followed and traced out? Does the interval between thought and the sense of self widen? This space seems to be of a different dimension, perhaps the dimension of new relationship and, why not, a new society. Yet constant vigilance in every moment is needed as the normal paths are taken automatically. These are paths felt as taken ?naturally?. Without a deep interest in this journey, with all its twists and turns and varying landscapes, there can be no understanding of self. Most of us only want to get there, to get to a place where we are not now, a utopia, a place that does not exist. The danger is that a dialogue group can also participate in creating this same illusion.
Only thought can create what isn?t now and identify with it. Can unidentified observation let life lead us to what is here and now, to the heart of the matter? At the heart of each dialogue is one participant: oneself. When each one of us sees his/her thoughts and feelings actually as they occur and that this very occurrence is creating separation, simultaneously we see we are the others. Whatever is being said and approached in the group is also mirroring an inner response in all participants. Can I touch this response as I would touch a friend?s hand? What is there in this unplanned moment? Is my response taken at face value, not as a way to plan the next moment, a pre-occupation that sees reality as a process in time? Judgement of my friends, discomfort felt in the group touched inwardly, turns into sensitivity and energy. Can a dialogue be a place to let go of the old meanings of our responses, both cultural and personal, and make way for this sense of something more alive, a living thing revealing perhaps a deeper purpose?