Multiplex: What's New | Site Map | Community | News My Multiplex Account | Sign In 
in Search
Multiplex » Integral Spiritual Center Foru... » General Discussion » Re: Steps Towards Integral Deep Dialogue (Part 2)

Steps Towards Integral Deep Dialogue (Part 2)

Last post 06-20-2007, 8:04 AM by balder. 2 replies.
Sort Posts: Previous Next
  •  06-04-2007, 1:58 PM 23953

    Steps Towards Integral Deep Dialogue (Part 2)

    Contemplative Dialogue

    The process of interfaith dialogue described in part one of this essay can be understood as a particular expression of a larger experiment that has been taking place over the past several decades:  the exploration of various forms of contemplative dialogue and group inquiry.  From Bohmian Dialogue, to John Heron's and Barbara Langton's co-operative inquiry, to Steven Wirth's Contemplative Dialogue, to Almaas' dyadic and triadic inquiry, to Andrew Cohen's teachings on collective awakening, to Ron Purser's and Alfonso Montuori's exploration of group creativity, to the work of the Co-Intelligence Institute, many individuals and groups in recent years have been giving sustained attention to intersubjective contemplative practice as a vehicle for deep learning and transformation.  Besides allowing individuals of different faith traditions or cultural backgrounds to broaden their perspectives and deepen their understanding and respect for one another, contemplatively grounded dialogue has the potential to allow individuals to become aware of (and less bound by) personal and collective conditioning, to explore new modes of mindful and deeply embodied communication, to meet at levels of awareness beyond the constraints of conditioning, and potentially to awaken new forms of collective intelligence and creativity.

    Ken Wilber, particularly in his recent work, stresses the importance of bringing fuller awareness to intersubjective dimensions of experience (noting the unfortunate lack of such awareness in many spiritual and scientific disciplines), and yet interestingly, he makes little if any mention of the extensive work and research in contemplative dialogue that is available, nor does he recommend contemplative dialogue as a component of Integral Life Practice.  Given the power of this method to effect change and to reveal dimensions of the psyche which are easily overlooked in individual contemplation, I believe this is an oversight which needs to be corrected.  Integral Theory draws on a range of perspectives and insights which could greatly enrich contemplative group process, should practitioners take the time to study it; but conversely, contemplative dialogue has the potential to powerfully clarify and experientially ground these insights into personal and collective conditioning which might otherwise remain rather abstract.

    Several writers on Zaadz have been exploring the promise of intersubjective work and the potential for collective awakening (see the blogs of Mushin and Helen, for instance).  I will not attempt to cover ground they have already covered (quite beautifully, I might add).  Instead, I want to look briefly at one approach that I'm fairly familiar with:  Bohmian dialogue.

    From “Group Think” to Group Intelligence

    David Bohm is well known for several reasons:  his brilliant but controversial work as a physicist, his extensive dialogues with J. Krishnamurti (recorded in video and book form), and his work with Donald Factor and Peter Garrett in creating a new practice of mindful dialogue.  Ken Wilber is rather famously dismissive of many of Bohm's theories – including his method of dialogical inquiry.  At a meet-up several years ago at Wilber's house, for instance, I recall Wilber remarking that it is silly to think that people will come to any radical insight or transformation simply by sitting around and talking.  But Bohmian dialogue involves more than just sitting around and talking, and I believe the theory behind it is sound, even from an Integral perspective.  I cannot spend a great deal of time on it here, but I will explain why I think it is effective and why I would recommend it as a powerful component of Integral Life Practice.

    Bohm's approach to dialogue is inspired by his understanding of the nature of thought, its limitations, and the role it plays in human conflict and disorder.  If you are interested in exploring Bohm's ideas in this area, I recommend starting with his posthumously published book, Thought as a System.  In Integral terms, Bohm sees thought not simply as an UL (subjective) phenomenon, but as something which manifests in all quadrants simultaneously, in a complex, evolving system of meaning and form.  By thought, Bohm doesn't simply mean the flow of inner dialogue that we might become aware of in meditation: he includes the self, memory, recollected feelings and emotional imprints (felts), the physical (neurological, chemical) correlates of thought, the network of sensations and contractions that manifest in the body as we think and react, the nonverbal “conditioning” that allows us to function in the world (say, learning to drive a car), the collective fields of meaning that thought generates (cultural presuppositions, myths, and narratives), the external systems and artifacts that thought generates (laws, national boundaries, even physical objects), and even the external networks which allow for the dissemination of thought (radio, TV, the Internet).   Bohm argues that all of these things may be understood as the undivided movement of thought, a movement which profoundly shapes and constrains human behavior, often unconsciously.

    One of Bohm's central aims, therefore, is creating and stabilizing what he calls the proprioception of thought.  Proprioception describes the body's ability to be immediately aware of its activity and movement:  when we raise an arm, we know not only where the arm is, we also know that we are the ones raising it.  But thought often moves outside of conscious awareness: psychological imprints condition and color our perceptions and reactions to a great degree; the structures of thought, and the influence of particular structures on what we take to be “given” in reality, are rather opaque to us, leading to pervasive incoherence in the field of human relationship.  To help make these patterns more apparent, Bohm recommends the regular practice of mindful dialogue in addition to individual contemplative practice.

    In Bohmian dialogue, one strives to be mindful of the movement of thought in several dimensions simultaneously:  as the subjective thoughts and “felts” that arise at any given moment; as the objective manifestation of sensations and contractions in the body; as the gestures and body language of members in the group; as the particular content of the discussion at hand; as the patterns of interaction and conflict that emerge over time (not only in one session, but over multiple sessions); as the conventions and rules which may inhibit the flow of dialogue; and so on.  In the beginning, this is a rather difficult practice.  But one approaches it simply:  starting from a position of open listening and letting dialogue unfold in the space of awareness that the group establishes.  Certain deeply held beliefs, presuppositions, “unwritten rules,” fears and insecurities, and so on, will gradually make themselves manifest through this process, as perceptions of individuals in the group fail to line up and various conflicts emerge.  These implicit beliefs, these forms of psychological and cultural conditioning, are not readily apparent in the practice of solitary meditation; but in Bohmian contemplative dialogue, particularly if it is sustained over a period of days or weeks, these patterns will emerge over time in the intersubjective field and can be cognized and processed by the group as a whole (or privately by individuals after a particular session has concluded). 

    Bohm contends (and I can confirm) that sustained practice of this form of dialogue, particularly if certain ground rules are followed, can lead not only to the emergence of insight for individuals in the group, but to a sort of collective intelligence that manifests in between participants - a creative flow of awareness and inspiration that can guide the group to deeper and deeper levels of understanding and communion.  The unconscious conventions and habits of thought, the conditioning which usually drives our reactions and our social negotiations, opens onto a living field of responsive intelligence - in Bohm's terms, the birth of group intelligence out of the largely unconscious field of “group think.”

    I do not have the space in this entry to outline the ground rules of Bohmian dialogue, but if you are interested, you can read a summary of them here.  If you are knowledgeable of Integral Theory, I believe you will recognize in Bohmian dialogue an all-quadrant range of awareness and a contemplative practice which has the potential to allow participants to explore dimensions of human experience which are opaque to traditional UL modes of individual inquiry.  One of Wilber's concerns, as I understand it, is that this process of dialogue is not capable of disclosing the “altitude” of participants, and may be compromised by the incommensurability of perspectives between altitudes.  However, this is no reason to disregard the value of this practice.  Awareness of “altitude,” of v-Memetic, moral, and cognitive levels of development, can enhance the process - both in the establishment of dialogue groups, and in the conduct of dialogue itself.

    Creative Ways Forward

    I selected Bohmian dialogue as an example of contemplative group inquiry because it is the method with which I am most familiar, but also because I believe it is a good example of a non-sectarian approach that can be used equally by atheists and theists, Buddhists and Christians.  It operates at a different level, and engages different perspectives, than those used in the context of interreligious dialogue.  In the latter, participants are interested in entering alien worldspaces - in leaving the comfort of their models and presuppositions in order to enter into the world of an Other, to return back home enriched by the journey.  In the process, participants may touch the creative ground of Presence and insight which lights and informs all symbol systems, rendering them more transparent.  But the aim is not explicitly to explore the structures of belief and conditioning, the habitual patterns of thought and reactivity, that so often drive human behavior.  Looking at creative ways forward, I want to suggest that practitioners of these various methods of contemplative dialogue might profitably work together - searching out ways they may best enrich one another.  Participants in interfaith dialogue might benefit, for instance, from the shared practice of Bohmian Dialogue, as a “neutral” ground on which they can meet after exploring one another's worldspaces - a ground on which they can stand as equals, exploring the dynamic patterns of thought and conditioning that underlie their worldviews and that unite them in their common humanity.  But there are other avenues of exploration and mutual enrichment open as well - as many as there are approaches to intersubjective inquiry and transformation.  An Integral approach to Deep Dialogue will honor them all, not necessarily as equals, but as having something valuable to bring to the tables around which we gather, in fellowship and wonder.

    ~*~

    Best wishes,

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

    • Post Points: 20
    • Report abuse
  •  06-13-2007, 7:54 AM 24502 in reply to 23953

    Re: Steps Towards Integral Deep Dialogue (Part 2)

    I agree Balder in your observations regarding group dialogue and the possibilities that individuals can create when using their pure attention and training their listening to transcend limiting beliefs. I personally believe Wilber is a genuis, and  he definitely could be contributed to, and integral as well with what you have posted. In previous post I have communicated an interest with having Wilber be in a dialogue with Werner Erhard the creator behind est and Landmark. What I experience as a big contribution from Werners communication courses was in who your BEING in any given moment ,and Where your listening from as an ongoing inquiry and an open possibility shapes the conversation, thus shaping your worldview. I believe this is missing from Kens work, as you have already pointed out. Ken is still a human being as we all are , and I personally thank him for his many contributions.  I hope he listens me as a possibility. LOL

    PS  I am open to Bohns work and did email them to see if there was any groups in the Detroit Mi. area.

    • Post Points: 20
    • Report abuse
  •  06-20-2007, 8:04 AM 24690 in reply to 24502

    Re: Steps Towards Integral Deep Dialogue (Part 2)

    Thanks, Billyjo, for your response.  I'm familiar with Werner Erhard and est in theory, but not in practice.  I agree, though, that being aware of "who you are being" and "where you are listening from" are practices that can enhance and deepen dialogue.  And an AQAL sensibility (a la Edwards) can facilitate that self-awareness, I believe.  All of these things can feed into each other -- and should!  Rather than keeping them in their separate trademarked boxes.

    If you find a Bohm group, I hope you'll report back here on your experiences.

    Best wishes,

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

    • Post Points: 5
    • Report abuse
View as RSS news feed in XML
 © Integral Institute, 2006. all rights reserved - powered by enlight™ email this page del.icio.us | terms of service | privacy policy | suggestion box | help