We have a limited time in group each week and we have a worthy goal. Freedom!
Our group is based on mindfulness inquiry. Like in a private facilitation with me, the focus during group is on your own internal experience. We are sharing from our own heart and the pace might be slow at times. There is room for reflection before we share. In the small groups, there is room to ask for what you need, like a moment of silence before you speak about what is coming up in the moment.
We are participating through our attention, deep listening and through sharing our own experience. This is a somatic mindfulness inquiry process. We use words to express ourselves and with practice we become more skilled at staying present in our body and not getting so wrapped up in thought.
We will trigger each other into fight/flight/freeze/fawn. Our defense mechanisms will come up and we might dissociate. We could feel an urge to get into someone else’s swim lane and offer commentary or advice. We might get angry and want to lash out. All of these are natural responses.
Part of what’s getting triggered is a memory of something similar to what happened to us. When we are authentic and sharing vulnerably, it will resonate and in that sense will trigger people. We refrain from commenting on what people share or giving advice, because even with positive regard, someone might feel judged or shamed.
The discipline is to stay focused internally and maintain mindfulness of your energy and thoughts. This helps to take traction away from our automatic strategies for avoiding uncomfortable or threatening feelings. And activating our defensive strategies tends to be what triggers other people into shutting down.
We are developing the capacity and skill to really listen to each other. We practice listening without resistance and judgment. We keep our focus internal and we notice thoughts and energy in our body. Can I attend to this with full concentration? Can I listen even when I’m triggered and maintain presence within and with this person?
Our goal is freedom! We need to see what is getting in the way, to notice what grabs us and makes us go unconscious. Witnessing our inner world is the main practice and it is more than enough to keep us engaged. We commit to staying and to working with our internal presence and energy.
We are training our mind to have the capacity to not wander during the 90 minutes. Focus is a mindfulness practice. We stay engaged in the group (listening and talking) while noticing what’s happening in our body. When did I tighten up and why? Can I stay present in my body and with my breath? When I feel resistance, can I be kind and patient with myself?
We experience that we have the capacity to stay. We get to know and trust ourselves.
My hope is that after each meeting, we each take some time to sit with what came up during the meeting. This is a fast track to knowing ourselves. That triggered me – what was that about? I didn’t have time during group so I’ll go back to it now while it’s fresh or make a note to inquire into it soon.
This experience in small group changes our lives. It is a place where we can practice being deeply authentic, being on our own side, and seeing how much we are alike. The details of our experiences are different and yet we all have primitive brain and nervous system responses, many can relate to or have similar core deficiency beliefs like being unlovable, and we all have basic goodness.
It is my role to be the group facilitator and focal point, the stability and the anchor. My intention is for this to be a safe place to speak truth and for all of us to have a meaningful, deep experience of authenticity. We will experience intensity and that’s fine. People are always invited to share, in the right way for you. You will share some things in the group, some things with me or another trusted person, and keep some things private. We are interacting in a group AND the work is deeply internal.
SAFETY IS THE TREATMENT
Our group time is a deep meditative inquiry and witnessing. We’re training ourselves to be present with ourselves and the people in the group. What transforms us is the repeated experience of feeling safe with me and within the group being present with each other.
It can feel raw to be so present with our feelings and we could find we are more reactive at times. As our trauma bucket empties out, it will matter less what other people think or feel about us. We do react to each other and we can view this group as a practice for the rest of our life. Deepen your capacity to look through a trauma lens. I notice I’m holding my breath while she is talking. Ah, I see she is feeling anxious. I breathe and orient myself back into the present moment.
The format of the 90 minute group is that we begin with an opening practice or inquiry. Do your best to be on time. We then move into personal sharing and listening. This is where we practice engaged mindful listening and talking. You might share something that came up during the inquiry and/or relate something that you are working with in your daily life. We then do a closing practice and a short round of sharing before we close.
The personal sharing portion is about 45 minutes. Please self-monitor how long you are sharing. That would generally be about 3 or 4 minutes per person plus my reflections or comments, so maybe 5 minutes each. Sometimes we have something big going on and need a bit more time. Other times we may only share for 2 minutes. There isn’t a hard rule. I don’t have a timer and ideally the time we share balances out over time. I want people to feel comfortable and to share freely.
Part of the skill in effective sharing is to talk about how you are feeling with only enough details so we have a general idea of the experience. Telling the back story can take a lot of time. This is something you could contemplate before group each week. What would you like to share and what details are necessary. That can help us be precise and make good use of our time. I find that people are generally engaged in listening for longer at times when someone is present in their body and expressing emotion or hurt. During group, we are engaging with people while keeping our focus internal. What is my ongoing response? Can I be clear and present without shaming or judging myself when I temporarily lose focus?
We are opening up space to be authentic and safe. It’s a practice so don’t expect perfection. We are building skills. Be kind, breathe, and stay connected.