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Is interpersonal group work better than sitting meditation for training mindfulness?

I'm missing the seventh session of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course that I've been attending because I've come down to our annual four day UK Men's Group in Cumbria.  I've written about these peer groups many times on this blog - for example, last year's Men's Group and the year before's, as well as Mixed Groups here in Cumbria and just last month a Scottish Mixed Group too.  I woke this morning and wondered - as a kind of thought experiment - whether maybe this four day interpersonal group is, in some ways, a "better" way of training mindfulness than the more traditional practice of sitting in meditation. 

Peer groups: Scottish Mixed Group – final morning

 The final morning of the group.  Still strong feelings settling from the evening before.  Caring for each other.  Re-strengthening the group "container".  We wobbled a good deal later on on Sunday, but I think everyone can feel good about "keeping the show on the road".  Potentially very helpful learning. 

Peer groups: Scottish Mixed Group – second full day: bumps, maintaining the group, emotions & cognitive processing

I wrote in the last blog post about the first part of the second full day at Glassie.  Later on in the afternoon we moved into a more "bumpy" phase of the group.  Often in these more difficult interactions there is the richest learning for everyone involved if one has the courage and openness to digest what happened.  Irvin Yalom, in his research on process groups, found that best outcomes were associated both with a great deal of caring, empathy & emotional "holding" and also with a great deal of "chewing over" and trying to understand what was brought up by events in the groups.  Interestingly, and in contrast, best outcomes were associated with a medium level - not too much & not too little - conflict & challenge.

Peer groups: Scottish Mixed Group – second full day: emotional ‘cooking’ in the group, and personal work too

I wrote yesterday about the first full day of this "long weekend" residential peer group.  The second day of the weekend was particularly rich - very nourishing or a bit too much depending partly on one's digestion.  So after the usual walks, talks, meditations, long chatty breakfasts, we began again in the full group at 10.00am.  Often at these residentials we start the morning with small support groups before moving on to the full group.  Over these three days we've reversed this sequence, starting with the full group and then, after a coffee break, moving on to the small support groups.  Both ways of organizing things have their benefits.  Yesterday starting with the full group worked particularly well.  As so often happens, one of the everyday experiences of living with others for three days had pushed buttons for someone, open

Peer groups: Scottish Mixed Group – beginning, initial thoughts, exciting & edgy

About 6.30 in the morning.  The lights of Aberfeldy shining through the dark from down in the valley.  We're at Glassie Farm Bunkhouse - fourteen of us staying here for three days.  I've written about this kind of peer group residential on a whole series of occasions on this blog - for example a UK Mixed Group in Cumbria this spring and a UK Men's Group in the Peak District last autumn.  The UK Men's Group, which has been running annually since 1993, spawned a Scottish Men's Group a good few years' ago, but the UK Mixed Group, which has been running since '91, never followed suit until now. 

Peer groups: Cumbria spring group – reflection

Back from the four day peer group in Cumbria. Back into the rich, busy, fascinating river of 'everyday life'. I've written already about the last full day of the group in "Vision express & where are these groups going?" and, as well, about confrontation in "Authenticity, learning & interpersonal conflict". The last morning of the group was good too, with a dip in the stream and a final breakfast, a group meeting with appreciations, learnings, and then to tidying up, lunch, leaving. Driving North again through Spring sunshine and showers. Precious times.

Peer groups, Cumbria spring group – fourth morning: 'vision express' & where are these groups going?

So how was yesterday?  In the blog post "Peer groups, Cumbria spring group - third morning: authenticity, learning & interpersonal conflict" I talked about conflict & confrontation.  I think I jumped in too fast and too hard a couple of days ago in a small group interaction that sparked some difficulties we went on to work with yesterday.  Good intention, good work.  Things have moved forward it seems.  Teasing out the issues, being honest, hearing each other, apologising for unnecessary hurt.  And it seems to me, it's well worth going back again to speak more about it ... to see where we've got to in our individual processing of what happened.  There's potential learning here for me, for the other person, for our relationship. 

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