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Experiences in Dialogue

I am new to Kinfonet and the Saturday dialogues. I feel grateful for the opportunity to join and look forward to being part of such a lively and passionate group.

Much discussion on dialogue occurred yesterday. The discussion moved me to share two recent experiences that color my feelings on dialogue. I stress that these are my personal experiences.

I attended a TAT Foundation intensive two weeks ago where a speaker took participants through an exercise. He asked us to think about the question “Why am I here?” but not in a normal way. We were to imagine sitting in a theater, observing ourselves on the screen thinking about the question. He repeated the question, “Why are you here”? I sat quietly a few minutes observing myself think out the question. The speaker asked the same question a few different ways followed by a period of silence. As I observed the theater screen, something moved deeply in my body. I was observing my image shape and reshape an answer to a question it may be called upon to talk about. It was mind blowing. In the middle of this exercise, a deep sensation of observing arose. Something else happened too. It was as if I was bombarded with awareness of the image “Matt” in a thousand past situations all at once. I have never had such an experience and it stunned me for the rest of the day.

Last week I attended Jackie’s program on hurt, put on by KFA. She began the program by talking about what makes good dialogue. (I am paraphrasing from notes) She said the part of us that solves problems is not very good at dialogue. She stressed how listening must be under observation. How important it was to proceed with care as we watched our listening. To watch the urges. To watch the response. To hold action for a minute and let it speak inside. Then speak when something is being said in common. She emphasized how the short question penetrates. How the long question, and the explanatory sentences many feel compelled to add, allows time for image to intercede.

Jackie’s words resonated deeply and brought back the sensation of being the observer. I felt hyperaware of an authoritarian presence standing by ready to protect, explain, clarify, and take over. It turned out that once I quieted the image, listening increased because there was not much I felt the urge to say. I left the program feeling it was the most rewarding of experiences.

Looking forward to next week!

Matt