What we're about
Q. What is this group about?
Wouldn't it be great to strip away much of the noise that surrounds us in every day life and slow down, to connect more deeply with ourselves and with others? We all want to feel more alive, to express our feelings and desires, to relate with others about what is meaningful to us - but when phones and social conventions get in the way and we talk about the weather or the news or send someone a video of a cat, we do not feel more connected.
In our everyday life, with so many other things on our mind, it can be hard or impossible to put attention on how we are communicating and relating, or to take the risk to try something different. We have all accumulated habitual patterns of thought, speech, breath and movement - things we do or think when with others due to anxiety, discomfort or social convention.
Often we are not even consciously aware of these patterns - and even when we are, on some level we know this is not really our true self, that we are just acting, finding some way to get through this moment and waiting for another moment in the future when all the hesitancy will be gone and it will, finally, be easy and appropriate to be ourselves. But this moment never comes.
We can gather and resolve to create a space in which we all have permission to slow down and allow ourselves to be mindful of some of these patterns in real time, to express some feelings/fears we normally avoid or hide, to play with or joke about something we would normally be serious about and vice versa. Plus, it's a lot of fun - these sessions are not all serious conversations and furrowed brows, just as often it is joyful and a celebration of being alive.
Q. What is Authentic Relating?
Authentic Relating consists of specific exercises, in pairs or small groups, which invite us to be more open and revealing than we might be in everyday life about our deeper feelings and desires, each exercise designed to shine a light on a particular way in which we present ourselves and relate with others. The exercises can be very specific and at the same time completely open - for example, an exercise might ask you to relate using certain specific sentence stems, but the topic you speak about and the depth of it will be entirely your choice. There are no right answers - you are invited to just be aware of how you respond; how the other responds; how expressing yourself freely with others can give you insight and clarity about what you really want or need; and how sometimes this way of being can make you feel like you've known someone for years instead of hours. I've done these exercises many times, and each one is a new experience.
Q. What can we expect to get from the meetings?
We show up here exactly how we show up in life, we just get to see it more clearly. No'one is trying to fix anyone else, we get to slow down and just be as we are; to notice our habitual responses, hidden assumptions and beliefs (and, if we wish, request feedback about them); and to notice the feelings, impulses and emotions that are frozen, ignored or numbed - and this cannot be unseen! It remains with us in our daily life and can totally transform how we relate to others (and how they relate to us).
Many of us often don't feel truly listened to in our daily lives - this can leave us with a sense of lack, without knowing exactly what it is we need. Being listened to by others - without needing to say or do anything other than be yourself - is a gift and can lead to spiritual and personal insights.
We can develop our felt-sense of what is right – by going with what we sense in the moment, we can get more in touch with our intuition, our inner voice. Taking small steps towards listening to this intuition can bleed into every area of your life.
Q. If there are no right answers and we are just "being", do I need to walk to Stokes Croft for you to tell me how to do this?
In one sense, this is right - I ask myself this question regularly. Yet meditation is equally simple - "just sit down, close your eyes and be with what is". Simple, but not easy - not for me anyway, I might try to decide to just be, but the mind, body and nervous system usually have other ideas. There are depths to meditation that can take many years to discover, and despite the simplicity there are still meditation teachers, courses, schools, chants etc. The exercises and principles we use are simple yet also have unlimited depth and can make just "being" into a new experience.
Q. Did you choose the name "Authentic Relating"?
No. I don't actually like it much. It suggests there is a specific way of being where you are, or can be, authentic and otherwise you are being inauthentic, which doesn't seem a helpful perspective to me. But it's what these activities are known as. 'Mindful Relating' might be better in my opinion, though mindful is also a bit of a buzzword nowadays.
So, take a deep breath - is your inner voice telling you to pay me £7 to tell you to be yourself? If so, then please come along next time or, if you have any questions, feel free to start a discussion or send me a message.