Archive for February, 2012

What is enlightened interaction like in a group?

Most of us hate going to gatherings when we don’t know anyone there. The typical experience is to be ignored by group members who don’t know me – which makes me want to hide behind a curtain. Sometimes, though, a well meaning group leader kindly makes a big deal of me and my attendance – which makes me want to hide under a chair!

These extremes do not apply to all groups, only about 98% of them. Enlightened group interaction is uncommon. I used to think it would occur in enlightened groups, but I’m not sure those are common either.

Up until a month ago, I would have told you that enlightened interaction is not possible in a group setting. But, I spent a day with a group that interacted in an enlightened way – at least they did the day I joined them.

What made their interaction different? It seemed that everyone in the group shared power with all the others. But what does that mean?

Here are the ways power was shared:

Everyone was treated as equally important. I was new to the group and had never met any of them before, yet I felt welcomed – not smothered or made much of, but welcomed and included as if I were a longstanding member of the group. The group was led by experts and everyone showed them respect, but no more than the experts showed respect for the rest of the group.

Everyone got the same airtime. Group discussion followed a protocol to give everyone an equal and uninterrupted time to contribute. But such protocols often result in big talkers taking the floor for long periods. This group had a more balanced discussion that seemed to arise from the mutual respect.

Everyone was open to interact with everyone else. Although a number of these people had known each other for a long time, there were no cliques to deal with. I could join their conversations. People approached me and engaged me in conversation. When I approached others and opened a conversation, they responded. Some were quiet but no one was aloof. Some were talkative but no one monopolized the conversation.

Everyone was honored with attention. When I spoke people listened and responded reasonably. No one interrupted me when I spoke, or let their attention wander as if they couldn’t wait for me to finish my sentence. I attribute this kind of attention to being present and aware. Real listening is truly the honor of another’s presence.

It may be that this enlightened interaction occurred because I was in a group of enlightened people; people practicing being present in the moment; people who know where their personal boundaries are. People who are present in the moment can enjoy a state of flow.
The resulting interaction had an elegance that reminded me of a school of fish or a flock of starlings, in which the individuals are in the flow, moving in synchrony; never colliding, never going separate directions.

How can you have more enlightened interactions? It helps to have enlightened friends. How do you know if your friends are enlightened? Don’t go by what they tell you. Watch how they behave.

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