Bohmiaans: A Container Experiment (III)

By Beth Macy,, Houston USA, June 2023

I’m in the midst of an experiment in developing a container, and this will be a description from the midpoint, all still in process!

The Pari Center in Pari, Italy is offering an online six-session series entitled “Beyond Bohm” in July of this year, and I was requested to organize one of the six sessions.  It will be an all-women dialogue on the topic of The Heart of Dialogue.  Here is the description that will be included in Pari’s announcement:

What is the heart?  In physiology, as far back as human records go, heart has been thought of as the core of the physical body, the sine qua non of life.  Metaphorically, the heart has been considered as that which brings about the coursing of spirit, meaning and emotion throughout one’s person, one’s relationships and one’s community.  It is the flow of life at both individual and collective spheres.  David Bohm’s description of dialogue also refers to an essential flow: that of “meaning moving through.”  Does dialogue, as well, have a heart, an essential core, through which a developing meaning flows?  What might emerge as our all-women dialogue gestates this question?

My dilemma has been how to create a container of the ten women in the dialogue group who, although all with deep experience in dialogue, mostly have never met.  The topic itself is deep and needs a strong container.  It’s risky! Especially since this is not intended to be a long-term dialogue group.  We don’t have the latitude of development over time, and certainly, that has its upsides and downsides.

We had our introductory session a few days ago, and after our process described below, the group consensus was to trust our selves to be able do justice to the intent of our charge and to stay fresh with it for our July online dialogue.  So, one shot at developing container!

Here is how we proceeded with our introductory, relationship-building session.  Beforehand, I had sent this request to all participants:  

Tell us a very brief (about three minutes max) story about some experience in your life that touched your heart.

My hope with this starting question was for each person to share from within herself something personal, something with emotional and somatic feeling and with meaning.  All of those are key ingredients in the development of container, at least that’s seems to be so in my reflections of what underlies an effective container.  As well, I hoped we would broach the topic of “heart” at a personal level, while not wearing out the topic before we get to our live dialogue in July.

I started the story-telling in order to role model what level of depth I hoped we could entertain.  The stories all were deep and touching, some of them had never been told before.  We surprised ourselves by what we told.  After each one we paused and held the silence as long as the story-teller wished so what we heard and felt could soak in.  On one hand what we shared was very different and individual. And yet on the other hand seemed to center around key meanings.  I found this so while on an early morning walk the next day…the very meanings that had carried the stories the day before – things like nurturance, risk, love, the pain of loss, new starts, home, trust – played themselves out with a storyline specific to my day and yet the core of the stories fit into the bouquet of meanings from the previous day.  Lots to ponder there about individuality of stories in contrast with the ubiquity of meaning.  It seems that the various stories and meanings had begun weaving together and were poignant enough that they acted like sentinels in my mind to illuminate their presence and the initial possibility of the group’s container. I wonder if that’s the natural development of container in a longer-term dialogue, i.e., individuality and collective woven inseparably together.

Now it’s two months until our July dialogue.  I feel the container has had a good start.  Will this start be strongly enough woven to hold through this break in time and to enable a deep delving into the heart of dialogue?

By the way, I can invite friends to attend the online dialogue at no charge, so if you want to see the end of this experiment, send me your name and email.

Beth Macy, USA: David Bohm expert en ook al tientallen jaren actief als dialoogbegeleider, schrijft op dit moment een boek over Bohm en dialoog, startte in 2018 een onlinegroep die maandelijks online bijeenkomt voor “Bohm inspired dialogue”.