Special Discussion held on Sunday 30 November 2016
On Sunday 30 November 2016 about twenty members gathered to discuss important questions that aimed to provide more clarity about what draws us, and perhaps generate options for the future of the WSG. The focus was very much to be on meta-questions rather than operational concerns.
Michael Harris facilitated, starting with some of the challenges we face as an organisation, and posing the question, "what is it that we value in coming together in the study group?"
Each one present was given an uninterrupted opportunity to convey their perspective, with a promise that anything shared on a personal level would not go beyond the room. This in itself generated discussion, as the weekly discussion groups can only work if it is safe to open our hearts. For some, this larger group and other combined meetings are a challenge – something for us all to remember to be aware of.
The conversation led to further questions:
"What is the source of this motivation?"
"Could Good Company be better serviced by a change in format?"
"How we might continue in the future with new people in a different age?"
Several important themes were revealed, as follows. Note that these are the opinions of individuals, and do not represent a consensus or outcome of the meeting, nor any intention to implement. One action point did come out of the discussion, as noted below.
What is it we value in coming together?
- We don’t find we can have discussions like this elsewhere, where one can say what one wants to say, and there is no judgement. Being here with like-minded people (one form of Good Company) brings light into people's lives, even beyond the individual and this group.
- We could not do this work alone. Collective sense-making helps to deepen understanding.
- We are open to material from many sources. There is no hierarchy of authority dictating the practices, sources or presenting a dogma. A deepening of understanding of messages underlying the religions is made available.
- We journey without objectives or an end in mind. This is contrary to the way the world seeks for us today.
- The approach and material used arises from real questions by real people, speaks to actual experience, and is to be tested against one's own experience. It applies to practical as well as spiritual life.
- The meditation tradition is our treasure, a taonga, a source of gold. As are The Record and turning. We are in a position to provide knowledge to those who are ready and want it. Our duty is to not let these die.
What is the source? Where does this gold come from?
- The Mantra is a living source. In the ceremony you are connected to the tradition.
- We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for the teaching that has come our way.
- There is no conflict with religion (Christianity in one person's case): "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Coming to understand that at a deeper level is the greatest treasure.
- Ouspensky and Gurdjieff provided a training ground for the possibilities of a human being; the Shankaracharya and Rumi provided the next level. These were like protecting leaves, from within which a new shoot reaches upwards. What will be the next shoot to grow upwards?
Could Good Company be better serviced by a change in format?
As a challenge, it was posited that we have allowed the discussion group structure to become fixed and inflexible. People are not actively encouraged to move between groups, and there is no moving around as might have happened in the past. Group sessions themselves have not changed much in years. How has this affected the work, and what could we change?
This generated a range of responses, including:
- The discussion groups are by their nature intimate, personal. New people entering a group requires a building of trust before that feeling of safety is restored. However, while this might be true for relative newcomers, would we feel the same five years on? More experienced members might feel safer moving between groups, having gotten to know the individuals and being more comfortable in themselves.
- There often is not the same level of reflection in large meetings.
- Moving between groups increased the learning.
- We need to be seen to be united, to be a group. This is not supported by the apparent divisions seen currently.
How we might continue in the future with new people in a different age? How to pass on the treasure?
A lot of ideas came out of this discussion. A sample:
- We need a 'starter kit', composed of discrete, stand-alone sessions. Each could answer one question.
- Have 'open question' sessions, where questions are called for and settled before starting discussion.
- Use social media to advertise these sessions – Meetup, Facebook.
- Use social media to provide a flavour of what is on offer – over each week, several members post one small reading and their contemplation upon it. These would be accompanied by a link to the WSG website or public event.
- Social media by their nature require content to be authentic, current and individual/personal, rather than canned.
Chris Paice offered to convene a brainstorming group to explore such options. If you would like to participate or offer input, please reply to his email address directly, which he circulated to the WSG-L email list recently.
The session, including time to connect beforehand, lasted two hours. Some were to remark afterwards how it had a good feeling overall, and people were heard.