Towards an Integration of Counselling,Clienting and Meditation
(1) Attendees:The same 7 people were rejoined by Sally. She had completed the three sessionsas per our group’s agreement last meeting. It was great to welcome herback and satisfying to note that our inquiry group, for it’s last meetingwas gender balanced 4:4!
(2) I owned to the fact that, although I’d been asked -when writing to absenteesfrom last time- to state that we had a clear agenda planned for our nextmeeting, I was not now clear what that agenda was. Mary reminded us ofthe idea that we may try reversing the order in which we explored the twomethods of integration. Various people expressed satisfaction with howwe had opened last time and we agreed on a similar start: a head to headhumming star, followed by a guided imagery period -led by Mary- to explorethe potential for both +’ve and -’ve outcomes for the day and our partin creating them. (In choosing a positive outcome I decided that the bestcontribution i could make towards that was to simply be as consistentlypresent as I could manage to be!)
(3) When we came back together there were calls both for a chance to checkin with each other and to meditate together. We designed a process, ina very consensual way, which was, in itself, an integration of the needsof the group to both express and to contemplate. It also took into accountand separated the need for informal (what’s on top, what’s been happening)from formal checking in (the report back from our personal research outsidethe group):
Ten minutes InsightMeditation.
A round of sharing‘what’s on top.’
Eleven minutes ‘METTA’meditation - led by Julian who invited us to focus loving kindness on eachindividual in turn, ending with the group as a whole. (at the end, Maryspontaneously shared an image she’d had for each person)
A round of what wedid for homework.
(4) Thefirst three stages worked really well for me: as a preparation for sharingthe on top stuff the preliminary insight meditation was ideal, likewise,as a preparation for generating loving kindness towards each individual,the sharing of the on top stuff was very useful in helping me to tune into the individual’s current concerns.
(5) We originallyintended to share and then to record a ‘gather’ At the last minute we decidedto record the sharing as well - whether that helped to ‘create’ our laterreluctance to gather I don’t know. We postponed it 'til after lunch andengaged in a recorded ‘gathering’ quite halfheartedly. In the event, asI am now attempting to write up this process I find that the tape is blank- I think the machine was set to auto-reverse. I didn’t switch it off atlunch break and it recorded over all that we had said. Hence this summaryis brief, from memory - 2 weeks after the event.
(6) All members of the inquiry group had met the commitment we set ourselvesat the last meeting to have three integrated sessions in the interveningtime period.
(7) Chris acknowledgedthat keeping to the commitment had helped to maintain his interest in theproject. Gina and Julian had worked together on the sessions and had foundconsiderable difficulty with them - there may have been relationship issuesbearing upon this as a shared activity which felt chore-like. Sally reporteda marked contrast between working with someone who had some familiaritywith the method and someone to whom it was a new concept - having foundawkwardness in the former situation. Mary and Jilly had worked together:Jilly felt involved in the development of a new kind of method and wishedto communicate our work to a wider audience. she felt a new co-counsellingcontract may be called for. Mary spoke of the difficulties of engagingin the work outside of the group and at the end of a hard working day.
(8) David hadhad a concentrated period of practice - having done all three sessionsover the last few days.
(9) Chris andI had experimented mainly with different thicknesses of sandwich. (seeChris’s last report) In ‘thicker’ clienting time I had used the approachof moving in between clienting and meditation intuitively/dynamically.I spoke of experiences during one powerful session with Chris in whichI was in touch with a lot of bottled up sadness and grief. I recognisedthat I could observe these feelings in meditation, but that it was theattention from my counsellor to my ‘story’ which released the floodgatesof emotional expression. Between much sobbing and tears I experimentedwith moving between meditation and clienting. The ‘trigger’ for me wasa phone call I’d made earlier in the day. I could simply observe the grief- in meditation, or visualise myself making the call - which accentuatedthe feeling, but when I actually articulated the content of my conversationfor Chris to hear, that was when I involuntarily entered into the welcomerelease of catharsis. The session illustrated the choice available between‘a watchful acceptance of a feeling’ and a ‘dynamic moving on of feelingthrough catharsis’ - but it also, in some ways, made clear to me that co-counsellingcan assist meditation; if anything, up ‘'til that point I had been comingfrom the other perspective of meditation contributing to co-counselling.This was a felt sense which I don’t find easy to articulate or justify.
(10) In the sketchy‘gather’ which happened after lunch, common themes which emerged were:the desire to communicate our findings to a wider audience, the sense thatthis kind of integration continues to prove useful (ie. our central propositionholds steady) but that different (subjective) times require different combinations/proportionalmixes. David spoke of having introduced the method to someone outside thegroup who had validated it’s effectiveness. It was described as a way tobring together the personal and transpersonal. The concept of a bridgewas offered - not only between personal and transpersonal, but betweenexpression of feelings and observation of feelings in a way that is noteither /or, but both/and......(leaving space for something else to comefrom it!)
(11) The methodwill be useful for serious meditators to become more familiar with pairedwork (co-counselling) and as a bridge for co-coers to become more familiarwith meditation.
(12) We moved into a discussion about what to do next. What were the essential‘components’ of the method, how were we to disseminate our current understandings?The cumulative effect of our work together was discussed; could a groupfresh to the method simply take it (however we describe it) as an off thepeg way to work without ‘working up to it’? The word ‘Intention’ was introduced- how to ‘fix’ an intention to work in this integrative fashion? We talkedat some length about introducing a simple opening ritual which acknowledgedthe potential for transformation - and the healing power of each othersaware attention. Caution was expressed as to the effect any apparent religiositymay have upon the more aspiritual/humanistic members of the co-counsellingcommunity. Different designs for ritual were explored - I suddenly challengedthe validity of what we were doing - we hadn’t even practised a ritualourselves yet here we were suggesting we incorporate it into a method.Julian reframed what we were doing in terms of ‘Our work suggests thatan opening ritual may be useful to set the intention....’ (my words, hopefullyroughly what you were saying J?) Jilly suggested a mutual gaze, someoneelse the traditional Hindu ‘namaste’ - I suggested a combination,with the namaste presenting an opportunity to disengage from the ritualin the same way that a hug is usually ended with a mutual squeeze initiatedby one and immediately responded to by the other.
(13) There wasenthusiasm for exploring the ritual straight away; other voices objectedsaying that we hadn’t even looked at the essentials of a method yet. Awave of confusion arose, where to start, the task looked enormous. Sallysuggested a mini- session, Chris said why not a full Co-med session. Whatkind - what design? I suggested that we break into pairs, take an hourand use it in whatever Co-med way our pair decided and then we could usethe breadth of our choices to illustrate the breadth of the method. Wewent with this suggestion and took a tea-break at the finish of the hour.
(14) After tea we had a sharing round to report how we used the hour. thanksto Mary for annotating and summarising what appears below.
(15) Chris& Sally (30 mins each)
Chris: It wasa shared meditation - sharing eye contact and hand contact. In my halfit was an open silence/eye contact/expressing something. i expressed positivethings - it became a very intense experience, it was almost unbearable.when giving free attention I’ve sometimes experienced the person in frontof me to become the living Buddha - I experienced this today. It was awonderful hour.
|Sally:||5 mins. meditation|
|10-15 mins. clienting|
|5 mins. meditation|
|5 mins. clienting+ neck massage|
(16) Martin& Julian (30 mins. each)
|Martin:||10 mins. med.|
|20 mins. exploring‘cross over place’ between med. & clienting.|
Julian: 5 min.periods alternating meditation and clienting - ending with walking med.
I liked the shortmed. sessions but found it difficult to get into any emotions - could bethe calming effect of meditation. Possibly a longer session first wouldhave helped me get into something.
(17) Jilly& David (2 x 10 mins. sessions - one each, then 2 x 20 min. sessions- one each)
Jilly: Clientingthen meditation for first ten mins. clienting for second 20 min. session- felt inhibited by other people meditating in the room.
David: I feltdissatisfied - it was challenging working with others in the room. Thefirst 5 min. clienting went well but it was a hassle sorting out the timesand it felt rather messy.
(18) Gina& Mary(30 mins. meditation - tuning into ourselves and each other,then 15 mins. each clienting.)
Mary: We agreedto sit together to ‘tune in’ for 5 mins. with eyes closed, no physicalcontact. This was a beautiful experience and we agreed to continue in thisway for another 25 mins. and speak if we needed to. I experienced beingin a shared space, giving and receiving warmth in a fluid way. I felt connectedwith Gina; I felt a need to give at one point and opened my eyes to seeGina crying. We moved easily into clienting - Gina going first. We seemedto maintain the same meditative quality in giving and receiving throughoutthe session. It felt very special.
Gina: It wasa beautiful experience; a sense of something shared in the first part -Iwas thrilled to find Mary was experiencing it too. Lots of sensations inthe period of silence- brought feelings about my mother’s death to thepoint of unbearableness - which is what I needed to happen. The sense of‘sharedness’ is what allowed that. In the second half hour the materialcame from that deep place established in the first half hour. - Beautiful!
(19) After thissharing we moved into a discussion about what was left to do. A growingsense of group anxiety - as we moved into the last 1.5 hours seemed tomake it difficult for us to focus as we swung between asking what werethe ‘essentials ‘ of the method and talked more about ritual, sacred spaceand intention. We took a ten minute group meditation after which two suggestionsfor a structuring exercise emerged. Julian suggested we write celebrationsof our achievements on a big sheet of paper. Mary suggested a brainstormaround the theme ‘What do I need to feel completed? Somehow, as a group,we launched into an ill-defined mixture of the two exercises - first ona sheet of paper with a big sun drawn on it, next, after Julian pointedout that this wasn’t working for him as an exercise of celebration of achievement,we used a sheet of paper divided into quadrants divided into: WHAT, HOW,TO WHOM, WHO DOES IT.
(20)On the Celebrations sheet:
We’ve sharedan understanding of ‘sacred space’
We’ve discovered bothhow ‘to be’ with feelings and ‘to deal with’ feelings at the same time.
Intention: to the highestgood of the person I am working with, and of all.
I celebrate our creativity,(pioneers)
I celebrate our co-operation,YIPPEE
Shared delight in occupying‘soul time’
and in the raysof the sun - representing things still to be done:Question ofwho to do it with.
To explore more workingwith two in a shared space - with FREE FLOW of counsellor/client/meditation.
Need to explore furtherpeople’s experience of how feelings are experienced/processed differentlyin meditation and co-counselling
Use Co-Medrather than Med-Co (as descriptive term)
Explain the sandwich- then explain within session integration
The suggestion thatopening to the infinity of both people gives access a deeper experience- therapeutic in co-counselling, for the transposition of pain/alleviationof suffering- reporting that this has been experienced.
Opening and closingritual - as intention to combine
Opening & closinga sacred/secular space with ritual
Our experience so farof attunement at the start of sessions
3 part process:1) settingthe intention - ritual of shared sacred space.For a group: more co-coand less talk makes for a more harmonious atmosphere!
2) mixture of Co-medis individually tailored - can be sandwich or fusion.
3) closing - anotherritual, can be moving from hand-holding to saluting each others divinity.
The relationship betweenfree attention and meditation
The different waysthat co-co and meditation can be combined in a session or sessions.
Writing is fraught- engages a particular aspect, changes the culture dramatically.
Could use some quotesfrom the tape or write ups to illustrate.
With someone you feelcomfortable with: 5 mins silent attunement(to myself & other person)- then meditation - focussing on my breath and the other - opening hearto give and receive. Awareness of shared space - clienting when one feelsready. Negotiating time as feels right - closing with a few mins meditationto return to own inner space. Saluting each-other with Namaste to close.
Group discussion/arguingdriven by anxiety over ‘not enough time’ is fruitless - better to co-coand meditate.
Mention about how weused attunement - we facilitated the group process with our previous twomeetings - ie. Co-med for groups as well as for pairs.
A group of people broughttogether for a workshop about exploring shared space for meditation/counselling/clienting.
Passages camp supportgroup
Some of us can offerworkshop at Co-co events
Next Dorset Fundamentals
One-to-one, John Heron,Teacher’s workshops, The Hug, other International co-co communities,
London CCI, ScottishCCI.
Other researchers:Roger Walsh, Padma da Silva.
Circulatea draft summary of Inquiry
email discussion gp.for us to write up aspects of findings
Compile a short leafletwith diagrams and text - making it fun.
Several people swappingthought,notes - collating these together, using tapes from todays session- especially the feedback of our homework and the gather.
Advertising a workshop
Full co-op inquiryreport and shorter abstract
Martin - academicreport bit and circulate to academics.
Jilly - with otherpeople, not on my own
Sally - I’ll help ,but not on my own - slowly - (over-committed)
David - workshop
Mary - I’dbe able to give some time to helping with the process of writing something- in a supportive rather than an initiating role.
(25) At theend of this process there was still a feel of anxiety - the end of thelife of the group that much closer. Julian suggested we join hands andcount our breaths to 20. At the end of which he reported that this wasthe first time he’d kept count that far. Jilly then facilitated us in anexercise where we all, standing, held hands and had mutual gaze, endingin a Namaste. The group broke into spontaneous hug-sharing at the end ofthat exercise which felt like a kind of ending ....Julian suggested formalisingit with a closing circle ritual - we said little, but passed a candle aroundthe group and collectively blew it out.