Talk To Me: Family Gatherings & Sacred Dialogue

Many of us will gather with family this week. Artful conversation with our self and others can make for a safe and uplifting experience even in the more edgy encounters. Here I share with you an excerpt from my book, The Zero Point Agreement on sacred dialogue.

It’s the stories we tell and the conversations we hold, and how we hold them, that determine our experiences of each other. In each conversation we hold with someone there is a story being told. When we let our conversations be more an exchange of stories rather than of ideas–something beautiful happens.

“Everybody walks in the street, more or less straight down the middle, and if a car comes while somebody’s having a good conversation or telling a good story, the car has to wait till the story finishes before people will move out of the way. Stories are important here, and cars aren’t.” –Ann Cameron, The Most Beautiful Place in the World

 David Bohm, perhaps one of the most quoted physicists, became increasingly aware of how the ecological crisis can be addressed through personal transformation in how we engage in relationship to one another. He developed a personal and social transformational tool he called dialogue. In dialogue we each listen to the views and stories of the other while renouncing our attempt to convert each other. We don’t attempt to override each other’s free will, but appreciate and participate together in an exchange of stories. So participating in a conversation with another takes precedence over taking care of our own emotions (which he understood to be our habitual and cognitive reactions based on our personal history). And these holiday gatherings are rich soil for emotions!

In sacred conversation, or dialogue, he points out that the intention is not to solve a problem or to even find a compromise between conflicting and different views. When we do this we tend to perpetuate the underlying problem. Much like I pointed out earlier, taking our focus off the problem generates more possibilities. The purpose of dialogue is to be a witness. The purpose of dialogue is to hear the other’s story. First we want to learn to witness our own internal dynamics and conversations (such as we did in the previous chapter); our habitual and emotional responses. We come to the conversation with some understanding of what we are habitually reacting to in regard to the other. Then we witness and listen to the other. Bringing more of a witnessing presence to the full internal and outward conversation permits a deeper creative level of shared conscioiusness, which brings about a genuinely common and natural appreciation for self and other. The conversation is experienced as an exchange of stories rather than an attempt to change someone’s viewpoint or influence someone in some way. In the sharing of stories we don’t interrupt or disagree, we listen attentively until a story is finished. (Remember, even someone’s strong opinion on something that you may disagree with is simply a story they have.)

In relationships that carry a lot of painful history, which weighs down the dynamic with emotions and expectations, try the following experiment. For example, this exercise in witnessing can be used the next time you go to a difficult family gathering.

Being the Witness

A simple but persuasive experiment is to go into a situation as the witness.

•In your conversations, have the main intention be to notice and keep an account of what happens in the internal and external landscape. For example, when Aunt Sally says a certain thing, you notice yourself feeling . . . you notice yourself thinking and reacting in this way . . . And when your brother comes into the room you notice others and yourself reacting in this way . . .

•Don’t put any particular spin on it, just notice. Notice that when “that” occurs in the outside landscape, “this” is what goes on inside of you. When someone acts in “that” way, others react in “this” way.

•Record any insights in your journal or field notebook for later reference. (I always carry around a small pocket journal so I can jot down insights or take notes “in the field” of my life.) Documenting these times of witnessing can add to your present and future happiness. All that you notice, including the assumptions you make about these encounters, will reveal to you the origins of your experiences. You can harvest from this witnessing presence insights that can be the groundwork for a more dynamic future relationship. We show up for the other by our own willingness to work with our own false gods, our own discomfort and unhappiness.

•Then with this increase in awareness of your inner landscaping you can better navigate the outer world of relationships and conversations.

“What is essential here is the presence of the spirit of dialogue, which is, in short, the ability to hold many points of view in suspension, along with a primary interest in the creation of common meaning”. –David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity


For more on sacred dialogue and being inspired from within: Order my book (due on by December 1st!): The ZERO POINT AGREEMENT: How To Be Who You Already Are

“Out beyond the ideas of right doing and wrong doing

is field,

I will meet you there.”  – Rumi, Thirteenth-century Persian poet

More Resources and books: (click on Title to link up).

The Art of Hosting (and harvesting conversations that matter.) An approach to leadership and co-creation.

David Bohm’s book: On Dialogue.

Parker Palmer & The Center for Courage and Renewal

Bert Stitt, Visionary & Emissary.

Also google: Appreciative Inquiry, Nonviolent communication.


And,  May your family gatherings be full of great stories.   (This is my writing space at home). 


6 thoughts on “Talk To Me: Family Gatherings & Sacred Dialogue

  1. En las causas orgánicas de origen vascular, Giraldez señala que los fármacos orales tan ampliamente conocidos son el tratamiento de primera línea, y suelen tener una efectividad bastante alta, en alrededor del 72% de los pacientes”, puntualiza.

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