Meetings that Make a Livable World: Collective Consciousness Part Two
1. An assembly of people, especially the members of a society or committee, to accomplish the goals of the body.
2. A coming together of two or more people, by chance or arrangement.
I suspect that people involved in meetings sometimes find themselves in a conversation that runs something like this:
“How was you day?”
“I’m exhausted, I had five meetings today.”
“Wow, that’s too many. I don’t know how you do it.”
But have you even noticed that not all meetings are created equal? It’s true that some meetings are exhausting, particularly when attendees are not able to align themselves towards a common purpose. But on the other hand, even in the most officious sorts of meetings, there is also always the second definition of the word. There is always also an encounter between two or more unique souls. This latter notion of meeting is deeply sustaining and nourishing and something that we all deeply long for. Among others, the question of how to move meetings from exhausting to nourishing is an important one for our times.
The amazing and fortunate thing about meetings is that when we increase the proportion of the second definition of the word, we also improve the body’s ability to effectively accomplish the work of the first. Because of this, moving the collective mind of a meeting out of a conventional consciousness into a higher consciousness improves both our ability to sustain and nourish ourselves and our ability to accomplish our goals together. For this reason, we say “it is wise to invest is the social field.” In other words, if we spend a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting engaged in a brief activity that serves no other purpose other than to raise up the collective level of consciousness of the gathered body, we will come out ahead in the end. At CTP, sometimes we all this investment a “transformational practice.”
How we do this is unique to the capacities and expectations of each group. Though there is no one set recipe, there are a couple of considerations that seem to hold in a variety of situations:
Facilitating an opening process is risky business. It is normal for both the facilitator and the participants to feel a bit nervous as a particular meeting practice (or the idea of meeting practice) is being introduced. This uneasiness may even feel like mild resistance. However, if this can be worked through, it often resolves in a sense of gratitude. Many times, I have heard an initially skeptical meeting participant say “That moment of silence at the beginning of our meetings might be the only pause in my day.”
This sense of uneasiness should actually be considered a good thing as it suggests that the group is moving outside of its expected level of consciousness. This is indeed necessary if we are to hold meetings that will lead to any amount of positive social transformation.
To keep people from getting too nervous, the facilitator should encourage the group to not take the process too seriously or to not try to create something “good.” The goal is the process not the product and that a playful attitude will help. Rather than focusing on the outcome, participants should bring their attention to the felt sensation of the social field in the room, and particularly the change that this field undergoes.
Though, some uneasiness is necessary, the facilitator should be careful not to push the group too far out of their comfort zone. If the group enters into any degree of freak-out zone for any participant, resistance will be overtly expressed. Note that this threshold will be different for each group.
Within these guidelines, there is a lot of freedom. Meeting practices could consist of word games, story exercises, movement exercises, collective poetry, a deep check-in, a moment of silence, an agreed upon ritual, a guided meditation, many other possibilities and any combination thereof. But if done with some skill, the results on every level will be improved.
So, I say, be creative with your meeting facilitation, step out of the routine and take risks. If we are going to have meetings, (and we are) let’s make them great ones.
Thanks for reading and for all you do.