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Peer groups: Cumbria autumn group – flowing

And it's the third morning of the group.  Yesterday again I took time for a usual mix of "self-care" - yoga, meditation, stream-dunking, tea & fruit.  As I wrote yesterday, I was very aware of feeling frustrated and impatient with how I felt the group had been going and how, particularly later in the day, I hadn't felt much emotional engagement with it.  Then it was breakfast and the small groups.  I was ready to "pop" by then and came in pretty much right at the start to ask for a bit of time.  It's a good rule of thumb in the group - and often in relationships more generally - that if I'm going to find it hard not to be distracted from what other people might do & say by what's going on in me, then it may well be sensible to raise the issues that are distracting me.  Unmentioned elephants in the corner of the room make conversation about other topics difficult - and the elephant is likely to be where much of the "emotional juice" is.  So I "popped".  Again there are a whole series of ways to express or share frustration and feeling pissed off - I decided to go with my internal dialogue.  Part of me yelling "Why the hell don't you get on with things.  This can be such a precious, special space and we're wasting this - you're wasting this (aimed at the reasonable, patient bit of myself).  For Christ's sake bloody well pull your damn finger out and put your balls on the line.  F***ing wimp ... " and so on.  And another bit of me replying something like "I can understand why you're feeling so frustrated and impatient, but it's really common for groups to start slowly and maybe the age distribution in this group makes it a bit harder."  And the dialogue went to and fro, mostly with the angry part sounding more convincing!  I believe yelling at another person is rarely a helpful way to go, but with personal emotional work it's usually really important to roll up one's sleeves and actually get into the emotion.  And I explored too something about how precious these kinds of groups have been in my life, and a bit of me feeling that my son might be thinking something like what's so special about a load of guys sitting round in this constipated way - I can think of many better things to do with my time.  This kind of dialogue work can be good.  I've particularly liked and been influenced Les Greenberg's ideas on this.

And the emotional stream was flowing more strongly in our small group by now.  Maybe my expression helped and maybe it was as much or more that it was the second morning and others too were "melting" and moving within themselves.  Rich, good, tender sharing around a web of different feelings and experiences.  This is part of how really good close relationships can be.  Then the coffee break and into the full group.  I talked jokingly with others during the break of waking so frustrated and trying to bring the angry/upset feeling with me to the full group.  It felt a bit like running in from the stream holding water in my hands and seeing it draining out through my fingers - I could feel my mood lifting and lightening.  And near the start of the full group I stepped into the middle and expressed the remaining anger.  Moving, looking, being seen, sharing my impatience at what had felt a lack of emotional engagement - and how I'd then realized that my anger was definitely engagement and that's what I wanted to bring.  Seriousness, laughter, talking in the group to my son about not wanting him to be disappointed.  Good.  And the full group moved on.  Again rich and special.  People taking risks.  One man sitting and going round everyone in the group person by person saying briefly how he felt about them.  Brave.  People who know each other outside the group, saying tender real things, difficult things that they hadn't expressed before.  People opening up and that helped others open up too.  There are many different strands that can make this kind of interpersonal group work so helpful and a whole series were very much in evidence this morning.

Then lunch and one man had offered to facilitate some kind of "vision quest" for anyone who'd like to take part.  He talked about walking/being in nature and really opening to the experience.  He suggested we experiment with carrying a question with us.  That we try out a way of walking that linked to "Leaving", "Waiting" and "Returning".  He spoke about ways of looking, ways of following inner impulse, ways of appreciating.  He's a fine man and an inspiring friend.  Ten of the eighteen were taking part - a bloody good turn out in the cold, pouring rain!  And each of us left to walk and be on our own for nearly two hours.  I carried a question or an exploration, an awareness of something about Vitality and something about Life.  Great.  A wonderful walk.  And returning to stand in a close circle and each of us talking about what our experience had been.  Moving and lovely too to see more of each person and to hear how they'd explored and what they'd gone through.  And in to a hot shower, mugs of tea, toast and cake and November afternoon inside warmth. 

And into the full group.  Someone particularly wanted to look at our work, how we related to our jobs, whether we were doing what we loved.  He spoke about why this was such an important issue for him.  We then spoke in pairs about what our own experience has been in this area that's pretty central to our lives.  Back to the full group.  Some good talking and then - as so often happens by this stage of the four days here - somebody was strongly triggered by all this.  He talked of how he just wanted to vomit when he looked at the situation we are in in the world.  The crazy, greedy stupidity of the more-more-more blinkeredness we have got ourselves into, and his sense of powerlessness and anger and despair with his position in it all.  And this is what we worked with.  How to do jobs while aware of the desperate inequalities in the world and the sense that we're all heading for, if not already over, the ecological, global warming precipice.  Not exactly an issue, or series of issues, that we're somehow going to "solve" here.  But real, gritty, huge stuff.  Hearing our feelings, our different/overlapping ways of living with our knowledge and understanding.  How to work without blinkers and without sinking into despair.  How to work with love and generosity and fascination.  These are issues for so many of us.

And supper.  Another yummily prepared kindness.  Talking, and then a ceilidh - singing, telling stories, moving, showing pictures - the theme was "All our loves".  Wow ...

And now it's the morning after.  Raining again.  Gradually emerging and moving into the day ...


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