GUIDELINES FOR AN EFFECTIVE GROUP
Setting up a network of Living Values groups around Australia, NZ and beyond is a wonderful ideal, which deserves to be supported. In fact, I believe achieving such a goal is essential for our highest growth. However, as is always the case, people can under-estimate what it takes to achieve such a goal. There is still a large gap between the ideal and the reality.
Creating group energy and maintaining it for an indefinite period is an art that requires a good deal of personal development and understanding. While this does not mean that it requires us to have a PHD before we can start such a group, it does mean you need to understand that by starting such a group, you are placing yourself on a definite path of awakening, and the responsibility to make the effort to undertake this awakening needs to be accepted and taken seriously. Take for granted that you are going to make mistakes, that you are going to have many false starts, and that you are going to be confronted with the complex realities of group dynamics.
As always, the ideal is always difficult to achieve, so while endeavoring to achieve this ideal we get more opportunity to gain self-awareness and learn about acceptance!
Below are some guidelines you may find useful.
KEEP THE GROUP GROUNDED.
We all like to chase the big ideal and the far-out experiences, but success lies in your everyday personal affairs. That is where your personal growth opportunities are. Bringing the principles down into the ups and downs of your daily life is the best way I know to sustain a continual personal growth.
People are always coming and going in my group, but the ones who are ready to get real and till the soil of their own personal issues are the ones who stay and grow. I have long since learned not to worry about the fly-by-nighters, or the rainbow chasers as I like to call them. I was one myself. It is a stage we all go through. We are searching but we don’t really know what for, but we think it has to be easy and instant. We do not yet realize that the ease comes from accepting the reality of the path and surrendering to it.
It is important to set a regular date and get the commitment from people to attend on this date and at an agreed specific time. Always start on that time. For frequency, I have found that every two weeks is enough to maintain momentum without straining relationships at home.
A SUCCESSFUL GROUP IS NOT A NUMBERS GAME.
Most people who inquire about my group for the first time ask me how many people attend my group as though the number is relevant to something. Some of the best groups I have attended have consisted of me and just one other person. Our ego thinks there is something wrong if that is all there is. Two people who are truly committed create far more power than a dozen rainbow chasers. In fact, a group starts with just one person. If you are truly serious, committed and willing to learn, you have already entered a hall of great Souls who are working hard and continuously on your behalf. Have faith and keep working on yourself.
WE ARE OF EQUAL WORTH, BUT WE DON’T HAVE EQUAL CAPABILITIES.
Even though a Living Values group is a group of equals, it will often benefit by having a facilitator who is there to provide hard won strength of character, experience and wisdom. Such a person may be skilled in group facilitation or aspiring to be a Living Values accredited facilitator and may even be a little further down the track then most of the group, even though the difference in integration is usually not that great between the members of such a group. We are all equal in value but not necessarily in ability. There will always be those who we can reach forward to whilst at the same time reaching back to those walking the path behind us. Humility tells us how to recognize the words of someone wiser and more experienced, and how to help someone less experienced. This is a dynamic that exists in every group of learning and has its rightful place, being a reality of the evolutionary process.
A facilitator therefore needs to be given the lead. Be patient. A good facilitator will try to strike a balance between structure and any sharing from the group. The facilitator is the focal point, guardian, and director of the group energy and never in Living Values – the teacher.
MAINTAIN A CONSISTANT PURPOSEFUL GROUP STRUCTURE
A certain amount of structure is necessary within a sharing group to maintain pure, positive and focused energy, and there are some useful guide-lines that help maintain the right energy flow of the type of mutual sharing group that I am referring to. For me, the most important of these are:
1. Respect the role of the facilitator.
For the purpose of maintaining a clear strong energy in a group, every group needs a facilitator, even if it is just someone from the group volunteering on the night. Their style of facilitating may not be exactly yours, but it may work well anyway. Give the person the benefit of the doubt. However, once you have given the person a chance; by all means give suggestions for improvement, preferably in a non-attached and constructive way. Remember the principle of goodwill and cooperation. Remember that Living Values must be applied to everything – in particular to the study group environment.
Setting the group guidelines is very important at the outset. These need to come from the group and be agreed to verbally. Once established this list should always be displayed. Such points might be: Punctuality, Starting and finishing on time, Only one person speaking at a time, Confidentiality, No ‘fixing’, No advice, Keep to the point, No stories, No teaching….etc.,
2. Allow each person their turn to share, without interruption or cross talk.
This may seem a bit rigid and there is room for some flexibility, but I have found that the energy level is best maintained this way. This counteracts the urge to jump in and “fix” people just because they are expressing their feelings. We are not in the group to psycho-analyze one another or to fix anyone. We can actually do that better for ourselves as we are talking. This is because there is a certain power about honestly and openly sharing in such a group, which enables each speaker to gain access to their own intuition. As sharers, we actually gain insight as we speak. Such a structure also helps us to learn how to truly listen and connect with other people, rather than only being focused on what we want to jump in and say next. Interruptions interfere with this inner-connection.
As the sharing continues around the group, each member picks up on the other members’ sharing, and the insights gained collectively raise the energy of the group. Some people like to jot down thoughts and insights so they don’t forget them when it comes to their turn to speak. Others prefer to take it as it comes. Either way, the sharing is basically free and spontaneous, within this guiding structure. Once the sharer has finish talking, other members can ask the sharer questions to clarify their own understanding, which in turn helps the whole group. But remember, it is not about giving advice or saving one another.
In James Redfield’s "The Celestine Prophecy", the fourth insight revealed another important point regarding participation in a group. As a member is speaking, those who are listening can consciously send energy in the form of positive thought to this person, encouraging them to think from their highest available state of consciousness. This is just another way of sending them love. Also, while we are doing this we are less likely to jump in with our five cents worth! This helps to focus the healing and transformative energies of the group even more, plus energize ourselves in the process.
3. Be Real.
None of us are perfect communicators. Being sincere means we have a go, we just do our best on the day. The ideal is to speak intelligently from the heart, which means maintaining a connection between heart, head, and Soul.
This enables us to be emotionally honest in our sharing without having to push our emotions down, or push them onto others. We are able to speak with sincerity, and if there is a tear that needs to be shed, then the atmosphere is there for it to flow freely. By having a go we soon get the feel for it. This is how we grow. Learning about Values and ideals is only a small part of what it takes to expand our consciousness. The heart only needs enough knowledge to enable it to make the next small jump. Many small steps make a journey.
4. Respect the collective wisdom of the group.
Decisions affecting the group as a whole need to be made democratically by the group. If you don’t agree with the final decision, just wait and see. Rarely is there a decision, made by an intelligent group of people that is so wrong. Often we get too attached to our own personal issues, which is another good reason why the collective wisdom of the group is better. In the same vein, it is important to be vigilant when someone is imposing their will on the group. Often we don’t like to speak up for fear of conflict. Dealing with issues quickly in the moment, even if we have to gently insist on it, is better for all concerned in the long run. If ever in doubt go back to the Values for guidance.
5. At each meeting, keep some sort of focus.
For example, choose a specific topic or a designated Value to the meeting. This is important for concentrating and building group energy. Use the modules of each Value as your point of focus – you will never exhaust the depth to which they can take you. When a group turns into a chat-fest or a gossip session the energy focus breaks up, the link with the group Soul is lost, and the focus is once again limited to the ego personality.
6. Respect confidentiality.
This type of group is about being real, about facing the truth about ourselves and most importantly, building an atmosphere of caring and acceptance whilst awakening to Living Values. What is spoken about privately at a meeting, regarding members personally, stays at that meeting. General issues can certainly be talked about afterwards, but gossip and personal criticism is avoided, which is a fundamental cornerstone to the principle of goodwill and cooperation.
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