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Peer groups: Wiston autumn group – second reflection

Yesterday was a normal day's work for me.  The group is getting a bit more distant.  In writing the reflection yesterday, I skipped past the structure of the final morning.  Waking, writing, tea, fruit, greeting, breakfast.  We negotiated details of the final morning timings.  The start was the last meeting of our small foursome support group.  Then we moved to a session in our groups of 12 or 13, and we ended with 45 minutes in the full group of 37.

Precious.  I deeply appreciate how I can be randomized - names out of a hat - to pretty much any other 3 to form a small support group, and if we work to be honest/authentic, sensitive/perceptive, caring/kind (see the communication scales) nearly always the time we spend together becomes hugely rich.  Yes, this is partly because our experiences in the wider group changes us and help us to be more and more open with each other in these small support groups - and it's partly because the quality of our interaction and mutual support in these small groups helps us be more true and courageous in the larger groups.

At this final session for our small group, we each spoke about how we were feeling and how the group had been for us.  I found myself standing, moving, gesticulating, explaining, expressing, vital and alive.  Then to our group of 12.  I said that I felt some tension between wanting there to be a chance to hear how everyone was, and also wanting to make space for anybody who felt there were final issues they needed to work on more fully.  There was surprising little time needed for "final issues" or "unfinished business", so we moved to giving everyone space for a final check-in.  I noticed myself a little twitchy about time keeping.  We had an hour for 12 of us to speak - approximately 5 minutes each.  I didn't want to be "officious" and keep on slipping into the organizing role so, when nobody suggested that anybody keep time (to make sure that nobody slipped too far over their 5 minute "share") I simply kept a quarter of an eye on my watch.  I was amused and impressed that we kept beautifully accurately to time, finishing almost precisely after an hour, despite nobody seeming hurried and nobody being interrupted or cut short.

When I decided to step in for this final 12 person group check-in, I slipped off my socks so that I could stand barefoot, alive, present.  I spoke of three intertwining themes that had recurred for me throughout the group - power, aliveness, and love.  I said that I had worked to ride my power and influence in the group like riding a horse.  I wanted to ride this horse down the middle of the road - direct, serving the needs of the moment as they emerged.  I knew that often I would tend to slide off the road into the ditches on either side.  One ditch was when I slipped into arrogance, when how I was oppressed others, reduced their voices, when I enjoyed being a "big guy".  The other ditch was when I held back too much, reined in, didn't use my knowledge and insight and strength to serve the moment because I was too concerned about upsetting others.  I said that this challenge was relevant throughout my life - with patients and colleagues, with friends, with my wife and kids, throughout.  I talked too about Carlos Castaneda's model of the Four Enemies on the path of a man of knowledge - Fear, Clarity, Power & Old Age.  Castaneda might have been a rogue, but he influenced both me and many of my friends at university in the early 1970's ... and some of the ideas are good.

I talked too about aliveness, vitality, juice.  I said that my day to day life was so structured, effective, functional, rewarding.  I described how I got a great deal done - with organization, and energy, and persistence, and focus.  But I said, at times this can become hard edged, lose liveliness, lose colour.  I described how coming to the group makes me fluid, flexible, "molten", deeply alive.  I said how important it is that I allow this into my life, this balance - like taking multi-coloured paint tins and splashing colour across the careful brick-by-brick structures of my life.  Or maybe I said it's like releasing a flight of humming birds amongst the buildings.  Juiciness.  Vitality.  I get it partly too - in overlapping ways - through free dance, competitive sport, lovemaking, time in the hills, meditation, and spending deep time with others.  It makes me sing - literally I find myself singing more.  It's so important to allow this, let this light into the efficient Puritanism of my life.  A balancing, a mutual supporting.

And thirdly I talked about love.  The heart of it.  That's what these groups are fundamentally about in so many ways for me - "learning to love".  And I've seen it so clearly.  How coming to these kinds of groups for many years has challenged, and supported, and inspired me to open more, become more sensitive, become more courageous about touching and expressing who I am.  I cried as I spoke about being with my mother in casualty the previous day.  I said that I loved her so much ... that that time we had together in the hospital cubicles, with the busy nurses and doctors, that connection with her had been some of the most precious hours of my life.  And being in the group had helped that so much, nourishes that opening.  And I've seen it in my work with patients yesterday too - in the day after the group finished - making real progress with people where our work together had been getting stuck or shallow.  Yes, for me these groups are hugely good to have in my life.

After our working group of 12 finished, we moved on to the final full group of 37 that I described in yesterday's blog.  Then lunch and driving friends back to the railway station in Edinburgh.  Talking, beginning to re-enter the busy-ness of daily life.  Fine.  Recharged.  Reconnected to others and to myself. 

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