Mindfulness Encounter Group

Awake, and live here and now! Your consciousness runs every moment like an automatic machine. For example, what happens when you receive a stimulus to one of your sensory organs, such as when you see something? Your mind starts to collate, to classify, to recognize what it is. Then it judges and prepares a strategy for further action, or it flows into another world of association. You may realize that your mind is running somewhere that has nothing to do with the first stimulus. You might find yourself in the midst of worry or agony, which you had not wanted consciously. Your consciousness strays freely.

You can stop such reckless running. Free your mind from such a roller coaster. You can lead an easier life. Mindfulness Encounter Group helps you wake up.

How the Group Works

The suitable number of participants for a Mindfulness Encounter Group is around ten. The most experienced person becomes the facilitator.

You and the other participants sit down in a circle and establish a meditative state of consciousness. You become aware of what you are experiencing now--the flow of your consciousness. Don't let it run; you are the master of it. Try to sense everything happening here and now--your emotions, physical sensations, images, thoughts, anything you experience. Maintain this state of consciousness; it is called mindfulness.

Also be aware of other people's minds. Try to sense what they are feeling. Try even to sense a deeper meaning and emotion in phenomena that are occurring around you. This too is mindfulness.

Sense your feelings

Mindfulness begins by sensing what emotion you have now. Let's say, someone said:

You never keep a promise!

When hearing such an utterance, probably you carry out a negative reaction. You get angry in an instant and refute the accusation.

What the hell! When didn't I keep a promise!

Don't miss the emotion you have at that moment. That is, you need to notice your anger. Let's follow what happens in more in detail:

  1. "You never keep a promise!" You hear that sound.
  2. "You ..." means me.
  3. "never keep a promise" is bad thing.
  4. The person is saying that I am a bad guy.
  5. I don't want to be regarded as a bad guy.
  6. Actually, I try to be a good man every day.
  7. If people believe this, I will become known as a bad guy.
  8. My everyday efforts will be disregarded.
  9. This statement attacks my good intentions.
  10. The person who says such a thing is a hard man.
  11. I am angry.
  12. It should be corrected.
  13. I have to express that this is serious misunderstanding.
  14. I will select a strong word.
  15. I will talk in a loud voice.

Such thinking occurred at super-high speed. It is so fast that you are not conscious of each thought. And the place to which it leads is a fighting scene of dislike and denunciation. The reaction of the heart is automatic and unconscious. If you are not awake at the moment, you cannot be free of such a pattern.

You need to prevent your mind from straying by being aware of your emotions. Emotion always exists behind speech and conduct. Anger is behind a counter-argument. If you can sense your emotion, you can follow your thinking backward to the first stimulus. Thus, you can realize your pattern of thinking and work on changing it.

Express your feelings

By the way, the above kind of dialogue will hardly happen in the real field of Mindfulness Encounter Group. A member of Mindfulness Encounter Group should not attack any other members.  "Non-violence" is one of most important rules. Without the person's explicit permission that he or she wants to hear such strong personal feedback, nobody can make others feel painful by attacking, demanding, pushing, pointing, or criticizing. Then, what do you do, when you feel like you want to say, "You never keep a promise!"? Instead you would express the feeling that has triggered your desire to say such strong words. Perhaps because you have anger or discomfort, you have selected such aggressive words. In that case, you can say something like following.

"I'm uncomfortable because you did not keep your promise."

That is not attacking the person, but you are just expressing your own feelings. You express the feelings that you have at this moment. Not your thoughts, but your emotional feelings. You express them as honestly as possible. If you say something like "You are ..." type of attacking message, it means that you are not aware of here and now.

"You never keep a promise!"  Then the other person replied,
"How about you!"

That reply is also wrong, because the person let his or her mind run through the feeling, thinking, and acting. Consciousness runs free, at a super-high speed. Those kinds of behavior have become patterns that appear repeatedly in the person's life.

Suppose you see Cathy dressed up. You want to say:

"What a beautiful brooch you wear! It's just fit to you."

Hearing it, she must be delighted. Because she has accomplished her will; that is, she had wanted to be acknowledged by people.  Here, if you had started to think "I had also similar one.  When was it?" or "Where did she buy it? I would have bought another color," you failed. You let your mind run away.

Like the brooch example, in Mindfulness Encounter Group, you try to find good parts of people and express what you feel about it. Since you have started the meeting with the person, at least you must have some amount of goodwill. You don't need to express disconfort of just 1%; while you have goodwill of 99% in the person. You will express such goodwill of 99% enough, then you may want to express the 1% if you feel it is really necessary.

"I always feel happy with you since you have ample store of topics."
"But, two days ago, when you did not keep your promises, I felt sad."

You just express your feeling here and now by an "I ..." message.

"I'm glad to see you are beautiful ..."
"I'm so sad to hear you say ..."
"I'm afraid you look ..."

Please do not misunderstand. Non-violence does not mean to flatter the others. Just express your feelings honestly. Also, if you say, "Your statement is not correct," you are not expressing your feeling, but your thought. You might experience anger or sadness before such thoughts. Try to honestly express such feeling or emotion: "I get angry." Or "I'm sad." Then you just add the reason why you came to have such emotion. For instance, "I am angry because I feel that I do keep my promises." Many people confuse their feelings and thoughts. That means they are not awake. When you feel good, don't lose it, but express it positively.

Sense the other person's feeling

When the other person is talking, you need to stop your thoughts and go into the person's conscious world. Sense the person's emotional experience rather than the spoken content. If you were thinking about how you were going to respond while you were listening, you were not awake. If you were not awake, you would start to say what you had prepared immediately after or even while the person was still talking. Your mind is running so fast. You forgot to sense the person's feeling.

It is not the purpose of Mindfulness Encounter Group to exchange opinions, but to exchange feelings. To sense the other person's feeling while the person talks, you need to be selfless. You need to stop your thoughts and truly listen.

Express what you have sensed from the other person

When you sense the other person's feeling, you express that you sensed it.

"You are so happy, now."
"You feel sad."
"I can understand your feeling, I also had a similar feeling when I did ...."

You are sympathetic; however, you may not agree with that person's way of reacting. You should not confuse sympathizing with agreeing. You understand the person's emotion through perceptive capability. On the other hand, agreeing means that you have the same opinion as the person.

Agreeing includes conceptualizing and evaluating the content of the statement. It is not the main concerns in a group. Therefore, it is not necessary to look for the conclusion of the theme of the talk. If a role has reached its end as a tool to sense feelings, you can change the theme, like turning over a page.

Expressing your sympathy is a positive act toward the person's heart. From your merciful heart, the person must feel much relief, knowing that you understood. Thus, you help to close the person's talk.

And express your feelings

Now, you can allow yourself to sense your own feeling. Catch it and express it frankly by an "I" message.

"I am also happy to hear that."
"I feel sad to hear you say so."

You express your feeling in an "I feel ..." form.

By contrast, let's say you counterattacked the person reflexively.

"What are you talking about!"
"You are wrong!"

Again, if you used a "you" message, you were not awake. Your mind ran by itself, thought, passed judgment, found a strategy, and took action.

Experiment

Mindfulness Encounter Group is also a place to experiment or to play with consciousness. Various situations of mind are possible.

1) You may find that the content of talk and the talker's feeling seem to be incongruent. For example, suppose that someone said:

"I am glad to hear your advice."

The spoken content seems to show the person is happy. However, you notice the person does not smile, but rather has a bitter face. It is a sign that the statement and feeling do not match. In such a case, you can sympathize with the person's unconscious feeling, and say:

"It is difficult to accept a man's advice. You may have conflict."

In this way, you try to see the person's good. If you said, "I cannot believe that you are glad", you don't have mercy.

2) The talker may have some unconscious intention.

"I hate you."

Such a statement may reveal "I want to have an argument with you" or "I want to attract you." or "I want to make you hurt." Then you can sympathize with the unconscious mind. For example you might say,

"You seem to get angry."
"Oh, you make me sad."

3) When you are blamed, take the following three steps to prevent your mind from running recklessly.

Step 1: Say to yourself, "He says so."
Step 2: Realize that something must make him think so.
Step 3: Tell yourself, "At least he did not punch me. I have to appreciate it."

So, if someone says, "You don't keep a promise," think just "He says 'You don't keep a promise'" without any conceptualization. "There must be something that makes him think so." Actually there may be the following reasons:
"There is some misunderstanding."
"Although I don't remember, there may be such a thing."
"I may have given him a pain in our previous life."
"This difficult situation is asking me for one step toward higher growth."
"I am playing a role to help him grow."
Anyway, the current situation is better than being beaten up. Thus, when you receive an accusation, take those steps, and say "I'm so sorry. I must have done something wrong, since you think so. I appreciate you for thinking about my growth." You can say so from the heart.
Then, if it is suitable, take Step 4.
Step 4: You express another feeling.
You can take such a step only when you are awake or mindful. When you become able to control old patterns of your thinking without any effort, you have been grown one step higher. You are one step closer to a Buddha.

4) Your negative feeling is a result of your mind's automatic reaction or reckless running. When you sense such a negative feeling, allow yourself fully accept it. Receive it once. Don't restrain it, thinking "I am a person of character. I must not have such feelings." Otherwise, you lose a discovery, reverting again into unconsciousness. Try to hold the emotion longer, like taking a bath. Taste the emotion intentionally.

5) Or, you could invent a play, a play of consciousness, if you have established a safe environment within the group. It must be strong enough for all members to believe each other's mercy. For example, you could amplify the emotional expression intentionally. Stand up, stamp the floor, and shout loudly.

"God aim! I will beat you up!"

You do that intentionally, keeping your mindfulness somehow. Then you may possibly get an unexpected message from your unconsciousness. You may recall an old memory. Then you may no longer get angry when you encounter a similar situation again. You can stay in a comfortable mood. That means you have erased the material in a certain depths of unconsciousness, which had caused automatic reaction of your mind.

6) With permission of the person, you can do experiments. Confirm the mindfulness of all people, and throw a word to the person very gently.

"You are lovable just the way you are."

This word may cause or trigger some big reactions from his or her unconscious. He or she may get some message, an insight for his or her spiritual growth.

Those plays of consciousness can be performed only after you establish a safe environment among the group's members. Without such safety, such play becomes violence. It creates pain in the other minds. Any big or small actions that push against other people's will are violence. Mindfulness Encounter Group condones non-violence.

You need not be overwhelmed by any consciousness flow; on the contrary, you can control the flow. The anger is not yourself, even when you get angry. The sadness is not yourself even when you are crying. The point is that only you can allow yourself to ride on such emotion, and you can also come back from such emotion whenever you decide.

Getting angry and retorting mean that you have something in your unconsciousness. If you were a Buddha, a man without karma, you must have thought, "That person tells that I do not keep promise." That's all. No resentment reaction. If there is no mental material that matches to the other person's utterance, no automatic reaction occurs.

When you learn mindfulness, you may no longer allow your mind to run recklessly. You are in peace any moment. You have grown one step higher.

Conclusion

"Sense your feeling", "Express your feeling", "Sense the other's feeling", and "Express what you have sensed from the other"-- repeating these experiences is Mindfulness Encounter Group. It is a playground of consciousness; play joy, anger, humor, and pathos. You don't need to put any pain or hatred into your everyday action. Think correctly, act with mercy, and you will have joy. Such a free deployment of joy is your life.

Mindfulness Encounter Group is an experimental space for playing in a joyful world. You will awake, grow spiritually, and become able to sense very subtle changes in your consciousness. The ultimate sparkle of consciousness is the same as the moment of the space created. Be aware of choppiness of being, which occurs from void to existence, from non-shape to shape. Isn't it the real awakening? You could sense the reality of the universe.

Appendix A--Rules

Mindfulness Encounter Group needs to keep an environment in which people trust each other and feel safe, so that people can share their experience or emotions.

Be merciful
Have mercy. Appreciate and respect all people just as they exist. Also, trust that each person believes same as you do.
Non-violence
Do not attack or criticize other people when it is not permitted. Do not force someone to do anything. The group is not a place argument, but just for exchanging feelings.
Confidentiality
Do not tell anything that happened in the place to non-members.
Participation
Actively participate in the group. You need to understand that anything that happens is a meaningful process for you and the whole group. Do not miss too many group meetings.