Guidelines for Group Processing of Papers

Return to Spirit

If you would like to get together a group of like-minded friends to discuss and try to go deeper into understanding of yourself and your papers, here are a few tips on how to make that a successful venture.

First, select only those people who have a serious intention to work on their self-development and toward higher consciousness. Age, gender and personality are not very important factors in this process. However, sincerity of intention and the humility to be open to change are crucial. It is important to have absolute confidentiality as some of the issues that come up may be quite sensitive. It may help to remind everyone that you are all equally vulnerable once the process begins.

Some things to remember:

1. This process takes time for a person to arrive at a sense of closure, so plan to allow each person an hour to an hour and a half to work uninterruptedly at any one meeting. This may mean that only two or three people can work at any one time. You can schedule your sessions to accommodate that in any way you wish. Sometimes the material that is coming up for discussion is not easily accessible, so patience is very useful.

2. No one gives advice or offers solutions. Trusting that the other person is completely capable of solving his/her own problems and finding the way Home is essential. Each listener is there to give support and encouragement and to facilitate the process of going deeper. Advice-giving is an ego trip and should not be indulged. In this endeavor, "help" in the usual sense is not helpful.

3. Only one person talks at a time. The person who is working has the floor and may recognize someone else to speak when s/he is ready. Usually the group waits until the person asks for feedback before anyone volunteers. It's probably a good idea for the first question after the paper is read to be something like, "What do you think this means?" Or "What seems to you to be the most important issue to talk about?" This gives control of the interview to the person working. As a listener, one way I find useful in trying to focus my attention on the other person is to ask myself, "What is the real issue here?" Or "How can we discover the real issue here?" Then I formulate questions to help the person bring it forward.

4. Each person who plans to work at a session prepares a paper to be read and copies for all those present. The purpose of writing a paper is to reflect on the issue and go as far as possible on one's own before asking for assistance. At the meeting, the author reads the paper and others follow him/her with their copies, perhaps marking places where a question might be asked. Often, images in the paper have symbolic meaning, so questions may be asked about those. For example, "What does the fruit tree mean to you?"

5. Questions are formulated to challenge the person to examine the issue in more depth and may take the following forms:

a. They begin with: "who," "what," "when," "do," "could," "what if," "how," "where," "can," etc. Never ask "why" questions as they require the respondent to justify themselves, and that is not the point. "Why" implies judgment and criticism. Examples of good questions: "What is keeping you from expressing yourself?" "How could you do that differently?" "Under what circumstances do you feel attacked?" "Where in your body is that memory?"

b. Good questions assist the person to make their issue concrete. Many folks tend to intellectualize things that make them feel defensive or that frighten them or that arouse intense emotion. So questions that help them come into direct experience of their bodies or hearts are useful. For example: "Where in your body is the grief?" "How does helping others manifest in your life?" "Who, exactly, thinks you are a nerd?" "How do you know this person thinks you are a nerd?" "What does your husband do that makes you think he doesn't love you?"

c. If a person begins a line of questioning, allow them to continue if an insight seems to be emerging. Patience. If you have trouble not talking or putting your two cents worth in, withdraw into your Witness Self and watch the process for a while.

6. Keep in mind that criticism, judgment, contempt, defensiveness and withdrawal are not only enemies of relationship, but they also tend to stop an open process.

7. Be intuitive, empathic and compassionate. The person who is working is working for you as well as for themselves. We are, after all, all One. Look for the meanings the process has for you personally. There are no accidental encounters.

8. Be sensitive to the moment when the person working has had enough, and stop. If in doubt, ask. This kind of self-study can be overwhelming, so take your cues from the one who is processing.

9. If the person seems blocked or stops, wait. The internal process has its own wisdom and may be trusted. Sometimes silence is needed for things to fall into place. After a time, someone might ask, "What do you need?"

10. If a person cries, wait. Do not rush in to hug them or offer sympathy. Tears may be a sign of opening and vulnerability as well as a sign of anger. Allow time for the reason to emerge and for healing to occur. Often, in the spiritual journey, a person may go through a phase of intensive weeping which is not attached to grief or other identifiable emotion. This is a sign of heart-opening and should be honored by the group. It may last, off and on, for quite a while. Its healing power is immense.

11. When the person working has had enough, s/he may say, Thank you for your help," which is a signal to end that person's session.

12. If anyone seems to have gone beyond the boundaries of common sense or "normal" behavior and other group members feel overly anxious, stop the process. (Note that some anxiety is to be expected in this work, but you can tell if it is getting out of hand.) If it seems advisable, get psychological help or advice. In cases of sudden, inexplicable and unexpected spiritual opening, contact the Spiritual Emergence Network at 1-408-426-0902 or write them at 603 Mission St., #7, Santa Cruz, CA 95060-3653 for referral to someone near you who can help. This probably won't happen if group members are sensitive to boundaries and to the needs of others. Consideration, courtesy and tact are especially necessary in this kind of situation.

It might be wise to scout around and see if there is a psychotherapist or psychologist in your area with training or interest in transpersonal psychology or experience in the area of spiritual development who could be called in case of difficulty.

Keep in mind while you are watching someone work that projection is one of the most common human defenses. Projection is occurring when one sees in the other something not accepted in oneself. And this may be either positive or negative. Since we are all guilty of this, a bit of self-examination is in order when you think you know what is right or wrong (also a judgment) with someone else. It is probably "yours." When you tell someone else what their problem is or what to do about it, you are really telling them about yourself. This is another reason for using the socratic approach of questioning. It is non-accusatory and open-ended. It allows the respondent to interpret it in terms of their issue rather than yours.

It is understood by everyone participating in this process that they take individual responsibility for their own lives, and that these guidelines are offered only in the hope that they will be useful to the group members. Therefore, use of these guidelines means that members of the group accept total responsibility for their own behavior and the individual outcomes.