Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Dialogues and Desires

I have been a student of Bohmian Dialogue for a number of years now and have been fascinated at its dynamics, its effectiveness and its utility in practice. Having established various forums that use this skill I know it is valid, possible and immensely rewarding for the participants in ways that are (literally) beyond words.

What is much more interesting is how little-used this profound technology is and in a recent call with colleagues we asked the mysterious reason for why this is. When you consider David Bohm's biography, the nature of his inquiry into the phenomenon of mind and the profound perspective offered, we have so much to learn in discovering where he went. To see thought as a system is to be in and to see thought at the same time. An essential skill for aspiring consciousness evolutionaries. Yet as Bohm describes, thought doesn't want to know what it is doing and struggles against knowing this too.

What becomes more apparent is how we are individually fascinated with the journey (rather than the outcome). The narrative of our lives is a journey we want to witness unfolding and experience fully. One thing we do not welcome is the plot spoiler, no matter how well the paths we travel, have already been trod. We enjoy the thinking about our problems with the mind we presently have. The conflict is our entertainment. In the words of David Bohm:

"Thought is constantly creating problems that way and then trying to solve them. But as it tries to solve them it makes it worse because it doesn't notice that it's creating them, and the more it thinks, the more problems it creates. ... We havent really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have engaged in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process."

I for one always succumb to this. I would much rather go back and work on something from first principles, read the source work, and walk that path, step by step, than get someone's summary version. I do so because I am not sure that what others have seen, is always what there was to see. By this process you also get to recognize true guides along the way, those seeing beneath the personal content and self-affirming interpretations. Signposts and stage guides are always welcomed, as bystanders. They are there to serve us. They inquire of us - 'Where was it did we think we wanted to go to and how do we want to experience that journey along the way?' They don't take us on their journey, they inspire us to continue ours. This acceptance, is often within our thinking, not for our thought, and so is acceptable. What is unacceptable to us, is the presumption of the mind of unknowing. I think this is where Dialogue comes in. It allows 'thought to see itself', and to experience itself, in that rare moment of unknowing.

My reflective observation about the global sustainability and leadership initiatives I am involved in is that, other than our most enlightened collectives, we are (at present) at the early stages of playing the games of holding and revealing individual perspectives. This feels to me much like a combination of the children's card games of snap and concentration. Each time a perspective is revealed or offered, another is immediately placed over it in a game of recognition and automatic supremacy, in an equality of partiality, until face cards appear. At the same time, we turn over these cards repeatedly, learning about them, seeing their position, forgetting about them and then remembering them anew. Only to then forget them again. This mixing of games satisfies a feeling of utility and yet is so vast, we get lost in its complexity.

While there is some progress in the aggregation of these perspectives, mostly what we are doing in our global understanding is enjoying the puzzle and the game. The objects of our interest is other people's suffering. Resolution is promised. The play continues.

About eight years ago, in realising the complexity of Bohmian Dialogue did not lend itself to easy explanation, I wrote a description of the stages of the process in metaphor. This was to assist in making the practice, and its practicing, more intentional and less accidental. It also helps with understanding how evoking the process itself, makes us vulnerable. As a contrast to how our global collective actions seem to be doing above, I have dug it out, to offer this as an alternative to our familiar processes of collective seeing, using that which is already there, discovered once more. A different approach to the game is proposed, perhaps only for those who are ready to play:

"A number of people are playing a game of cards. Each person lays their cards on the table one at a time. Each new card is placed so as to obscure the one underneath. As soon as a card is recognized the next player rushes to play their card. When two cards are seen to be alike – snap – the fastest to notice wins conclusively. That winner then lays claim to holding all the cards already played.

However, while winning that passage of play, they notice the full deck has not yet been played. So the process repeats until all the cards have been seen. While many of the cards played are similar, the players notice that the cards are also distinctly different. Because the aim is to have cards that are identical, no-one is seen as a clear winner. Even the player holding most of the cards. An impasse results. The cards are shuffled and the game repeats.

Upon becoming frustrated at this, the players then try to sort the cards consciously and collectively, immediately noticing similarities in both face value and suit. When all the cards are spread on the table, face up before all players, it is recognized that while there is some obvious pattern and way of ordering, no two cards are precisely the same – none are truly identical. No player can find a match. For any one card, or for all.

The players then choose to change the game and combine all the cards together. They begin to collectively, and carefully, lay the cards out to form a pattern. Only when all the cards are arranged on the table face up, and the players stand back, can they see that the pattern of similarity they are looking for has been completed in a beautiful mandala they have unconsciously created, which perhaps was already there.

With all the cards in place the whole pattern unseeable, beyond the cards, is now able to be seen. It is only at this point that they realize that if all the cards are again turned over, that the pattern on the reverse face of each card is identical. The underlying truth discovered is that all the cards are, and always have been, all the same.
" (Varey, 2002)

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