Someone expressed an interest the other day in encounter groups and it stimulated my memory. With your permission, I’d like to say what it was about groups that I want back in my life.
One of my projects after the Reval will be to reinvent “Cold Mountain Institute,” here in Vancouver. It’s now called Hollyhock. I want the concept back.
Anyone who had been through a Cold Mountain 3-month Resident Fellowship Program spoke only of “groups.”
We had had the experience of going as a group through a 3-month encounter experience, meditation retreat, art therapy program, massage class, awareness workshop, enlightenment intensive, sexuality workshop, silence, I can’t remember how many workshops we did.
All the time it was the same group finding itself first in this workshop and then in that. Always the same people. After a while we no longer thought of ourselves as members of, say, an encounter group. We just did groups.
We were fluid. We were unattached. We were very much in touch with ourselves.
The spiritual currency in encounter groups was feelings. Feelings were deemed to be more robust, alive, and just plain juicier than simple ideas, viewed through the filter of what Cold Mountain stood for – emotional breakthrough and spiritual expansion.
As I saw it, there were levels of accomplishment in regards to feelings. One level was to simply realize that we may be out of touch with our feelings.
It took me six weeks to realize that. When I did, I ran down the trail shouting, “I’m out of touch with my feelings I’m out of touch with my feelings!” It was such a breakthrough for me to see that.
A second level was to be able to name our feelings. We had come to know enough of and about our feelings that we could identify what’s playing on us right now. And what’s “playing us”? Even better.
A third level was to be able to work into our conversation reports of how we felt in a manner that elevated the conversation.
Transparency was what was being aimed at, even though we knew it wasn’t the way the larger society was going to communicate. This was a chance to see how life could be, whether or not it survived “out there.”
I’ve told this story before. The bond we built was so profound that, at the last lunch before we all left, no one said a word. It would have been sacrilege to make small talk. We all just hugged, wept, and left. (1) I’ve never been so profoundly and intimately connected with a group of people as I was with them.
And I miss that. It’s like trying to get an elephant up and walking to get me to start up that engine again. After the Reval, I’ll have lots of pep. Not so much now. I’m tired. We’re all tired, as one reader observed.
But I see the value of it nevertheless.
There’s more to “groups” than just getting in touch with our feelings: Owning our responsibility for matters we’d denied our responsibility for in the past; calling ourselves on our own bullshit, not waiting for others to do it; getting off our acts; stopping manipulating; stopping dominating; stopping hiding and withdrawing. We were like jewels being polished in a rock tumbler.
And, yes, the whole aura left us after we left the property, all too soon. But, as we now rise up in consciousness, and move from ideas to experience to realization, getting in touch with our feelings – which was perhaps the most important component of “groups” – is, I believe, what lies next for us.
As our consciousness expands, as our hearts open, we may find ourselves in this terrain sooner than we think. We may find that the way we feel is the most important element of our experience in these new times.
At this moment, in my view, we’re still pretty consistently in our heads. Our interaction lacks the juice that comes from two people being in touch with how they feel.
We don’t go farther than saying what we think and sometimes disguising it as how we feel. But it isn’t. They’re all just thoughts. Not a lot of life in them.
You saw some time ago, (in the article “I Robot,” (2) that my behavior can be downright mechanical. It can all be shaped by vasanas. I can be on rails, on automatic a good deal of the time.
I was operating more and more in the realm of ideas, and less and less in the experiential. The experiential domain is more alive and juicier, as I said.
It’s more impactful. It’s more responsive. It’s just … better.
The next level beyond the experiential is the realizational and that’s sublime. That’s Fifth Dimensional and up. It gets better than better.
I’m not saying that “up” is necessarily a higher dimension. What I mean by it is a deeper and deeper experience.
I want the particular kind of “higher consciousness” in my life again that “groups” fostered. I want that intensity and red, raw intimacy back now after years of me ignoring and forgetting it.
One of the courses Cold Mountain offered was called “Come Alive!” That’s where I’m at as well. I want to come alive again.
(1) Those who wished to talk did so quietly, inside the lodge, away from those eating on the balcony.
(2) “I Robot” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/2017/09/13/i-robot/