I spent Friday at a meeting experimenting with holding a Dialogue, based on the ideas of David Bohm. I was invited by Peter Kajtar who has dedicated a large part of his life to exploring Bohm’s ideas.
Bohm’s writing is dense and often hard to understand but I have always sensed his wisdom; the experience of reading is a mixture of moments of clear insight alternating with frustration. The same is true of participating in a Dialogue using his framework. Peter has a great gift for helping to navigate that experience.
Peter shared the Nasrudim parable, where our hero is searching for his keys under a street light. He explains to a friend that the keys are not there, but he wants to look where he can see and not in the darkness. Many of our arguments end up with us all staring in the pools of light created by each other’s mental torches. Dialogue is, in part, an attempt to increase our awareness of what is in shadow. When the dialogue hits a conflict, we may take the opportunity to look beyond the content (which is in the light). Instead we can explore the structure – our deep unquestioned assumptions about thought and language (which is in shadow).
It’s hard to explain, and this may not really do justice to the process: you had to be there.
Reflecting over the weekend, I went back to Donald Factor’s comments about frustration and how we normally avoid or transform it, rather than enquire deeply into it. And I also took comfort from this post by Chris Corrigan on accepting, rather than denying, when we don’t know what we are doing.
Although Unhurried Conversations don’t use Bohm’s framework, and follow a simpler explicit process, I think they often also create opportunities to at least sense that there is that shadow, and that in it lies enormous potential if we can create some kind of intelligent relationship with it.