I want to talk again about the nature of the meditative discussion – or verbal inquiry – that we engage in during our monthly sessions and our retreat. It’s becoming clearer to me that in coming together in dialogue, in the stillness of listening and speaking, what emerges is the functioning of mind that does not belong to one person. One person says something. Another person responds, or maybe has a reaction to the first person. Someone else doesn’t understand what these two are talking about and feels irritated or stupid. Someone else gives advice. But it is becoming clear to me that we are all being affected by what comes up. We are all swimming in the same pool of thoughts, feelings, reactions, defenses and sometimes simple listening.
And the amazing thing is that we are also swimming in the same pool of wisdom. In other words as people speak and listen together, there is a latent communal wisdom that seems to become activated. I’m thinking especially of retreat, during which we sit, meet, and talk together over a period of days. During this time, the undividedness of listening together becomes more obvious. We begin to live each other’s issues directly, to experience them in our bodies and minds. If one person talks about self-judgment, we all become more aware of self-judment and begin to understand the issues, the dynamics, directly, in our bodies and minds. It is as though we are all working together on each other’s issues and when we come back together, light is shed.
On the one hand this listening together is difficult. It can bring up many reactions. It can be difficult to follow and understand what people are saying in the usual way and this can make people feel uncomfortable or ignorant or that everyone else understands but me. It can bring up any or all of the resistances that we, on our own, have learned to repress, ignore, or sidetrack. In this group Presence, we aren’t able to apply those strategies. On the other hand, when this undivided listening begins to function in a group, there is much greater pool of energy available for the opening up and healing of self-defensiveness, of powerful blind patterns, of fundamental fear.
The awakening of this undivided mind functioning through a group of people is not a common thing. In most groups of people we are simply a conglomeration of isolated energies, body/minds trying very hard not to be affected by others. But we ARE affecting each other. We are reinforcing each other’s isolation. We do like groups in which we have something in common. Then we can feel a small thread of undividedness, one that is safe. But the moment that something unsafe comes up, we tend to run. Perhaps there is a deep feeling in most of us that other people are fundamentally unsafe. And yet, when a group of people begin to be able to hear each other, to be vulnerable, to really function as one undivided listening, it is so clear that that is our real nature and that undivided listening is the key – the only key really – to the coming to light and healing of our deep internal fears, anxieties, confusions.
It’s not that we have to create undivided mind or develop it. It is already what is. We are, already, all in the same pool – one pool of the arising of things and the dying of things – but we don’t notice it. Because we don’t notice it, we don’t trust it. Because we don’t trust it, we hold back from being vulnerable, influencable, sensitive. And so we act out our lives as if holding back is the only way to survive. The dialogue groups, along with one on one meeting, are a good way, in relation with other people, to start to explore undivided listening, to see it in operation, to see how it reveals things no matter how painful and that in being revealed, difficulties heal. To see that the energy of all life is right here and available to touch our most difficult darknesses.
This takes a lot of patience. The more chance I have to sit together with a particular group of people, the more strongly and smoothly this undivided listening seems to function through us. And the more love there is between us. It’s important to come together in a discussion structure that allows lots of time for listening and talking and that doesn’t try to prevent difficult things from coming up, and allows for people to speak honestly from the truth of undivided mind, shedding light on that which keeps us living darkly and narrowly. It’s also important that we have a chance to do this together again and again, not to turn away when the discussion gets difficult or insulting or heady or cliquish or hard to understand. What is it that we trust in coming back to this again and again? It is not a particular person, a particular approach, a particular set of beliefs or practices, but rather we trust that if we go together deeply into what comes up, the undivided energy of Life will come shining through us, making us transparent together with light, love, healing, and intelligence. One shining Body of being.
At first we don’t know how to talk or listen in tune with undivided mind. We trip and fumble over our old ways of talking and listening. This can be uncomfortable, awkward, frightening, exposed. At this point many people say, “This group is not for me. This isn’t what I was looking for. I want a group that’s safe. I want peace and harmony. I want practices that will lead me to freedom. I want a group that I have spiritual beliefs in common with. I want to be with people who are supportive. We need certain rules to make this group safe for everyone.” Aren’t those exactly the old ways and methods? Why not, gradually, by persisting with it, find our way with listening freshly and openly? Eventually it becomes clear that life is one mind and that is what we are. Then it is not a matter of trust. It is a matter of the living truth, seen, felt, lived right here this moment.