We sit for about a half hour and then have an hour for discussion, followed by another sitting and then a final half hour or so of discussion.
The spirit of the discussion time is, rather than talking “about” meditation or “about” our lives, to inquire directly as issues, images, reactions and insights come up, all in a quiet space of presence that allows us to hear each other and our selves, along with the simple sounds and movement of life around us and the stillness that pervades it all.
Talking with each other can bring up many strongly ingrained memories of the difficulties of our human relationships – power struggles through using words, fear of sounding stupid and the desire to say something good, fear of having nothing to say at all, the exhaustion and confusion of talking and thinking. It also exposes us to mind states (through things others say) that are hard wired to strong reactions and aversions in us. In fact, it exposes us to the entire human mind. In all of this, the deeply ingrained resistance to simply being with these things can be felt.
This kind of talking and listening takes a different kind of energy than simple quiet sitting but it also brings us intimately in touch with the patterns that dominate our lives in a way that quiet sitting alone may not. This new energy that allows us to be directly with the flood of reactions moving through the body/mind, brought up by the talking, without being swept away by it, is the very thing that is needed to start shedding light on the way we live.
In talking with people and visiting different groups, I have come to feel that this kind of direct verbal inquiry together is rather unique. It is a difficult thing to enter into and most discussion that happpens in groups usually centers on things such as encouragement, sharing experiences, establishing a theoretical framework for meditative work, quoting from scriptures, giving strategies and techniques or perhaps trying to point to what is often called the absolute.
Direct inquiry into an issue, personally entering into a confusion, concern, a reactivity in presence is a different energy. The energy of presence then does not want to go off into the usual talking described above but stays here with the issue and with the breathing and the sound of the fan and indeed with all life, right here. This is a shining of light into all corners.
This silent, fresh energy is not always available. But coming together in a group is a wonderful way that may make it more accessible. This is the purpose of our meeting, retreating, talking and inquiring together.