Core features of Dialogue Process

"A basic notion for a dialogue would be for people to sit in a circle. Such a geometric arrangement doesn't favor anybody; it allows for direct communication. In principle, the dialogue should work without any leader and without any agenda. Of course we are used to leaders and agendas, so if we were to start a meeting without leader - start talking with no agenda, no purpose - I think we would find a great deal of anxiety in not knowing what to do. Thus, one of the things would be to work through that anxiety, to face it. In fact, we know by experience that if people do this for an hour or two they do get through it and start to talk more freely." David Bohm - On dialogue

-          Create a “container”It is a space where it is safe to reveal our deep truths and inquire with the curiosity of a learner into the truths of others. I think this is the room,  the athmosphere and the group created to make a dialogue session.

-          Adopt the stance of a  learnerThis attitude enables us to be genuinely curious and to put aside our cultural conditioning to be “knowers”. The Zen master Shunryu Suzuki had the following formulation : “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” We have to get over our prejudices and have the excitement of getting to know somebody new.

-          Radical respectI acknowledge the other person in her/his essential being as worthy of respect. Respect is more active than tolerance : to the degree I am able to see the world from the perspective of others. Every human being is special and there could be many things we might learn from each other.

-          Openness I bring an openness for new ideas and other perspectives. I am open to questioning long held habits, assumptions and beliefs.

-          Speak from the heart I speak which truly engages me, that which is truly important to me. I do not speak in order to shine brilliantly, to theorize or to make a speech. I am economical with words. This helps the group to be whole-hearted.

-          Listen deeply I listen  the other person without reservation with empathic openness that invites the other person to reveal in trust her/his unique world. This is all we need to solve the problems, in daily life we do not spend enough time and interest to listen others.

-          Slow down – In dialogue we have the oppurtunity to become aware of where our automatic, knee-jerk mental and emotional reactions come from. Without slowing down our communication process, such transforming awareness is scarcely possible.

-          Suspend assumptions and certainty The differences in our beliefs, assumptions and interpretations provide the fuel for endless misunderstandings and conflicts. In dialogue we practice becoming aware of our assumptions and judgments and holding them lightly in “suspension” so that we can observe and acknowledge them.

-          Practice a spirit of inquiry I put aside my role as “knower” and develop a genuine interest in that with which I am not familiar. I develop an attitude of curiosity, awareness and humility: “I don’t know and I am interested in learning.”

-          Embrace the paradox of differences I become increasingly able to  live in the creative tension that allows that both “this” and “that” can be true. I refrain from doing violence to a situation or a person by forcing it or her/him to conform to my picture of the world. Can you ever imagine a world without color shades?

-          Observe the observer I become a witnessing observer to my own listening and speaking, and in the process my fixed positions soften and transform. “Observed thought changes”-David Bohm


Who is David Bohm?

"I give a meaning to the word 'dialogue' that is somewhat different from what is commonly used. The derivations of words often help to suggest a deeper meaning. 'Dialogue' comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means 'the word' or in our case we would think of the 'meaning of the word'. And dia means 'through' - it doesn't mean 'two'. A dialogue can be among any number of people, not just two. Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself, if the spirit of the dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us." David Bohm-On dialogue

David Joseph Bohm (1917–1992) was an quantum physicist who studied in the fields of theoretical physics, philosopy and neuropsycology and contributed to the Manhattan Project. He was born in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, Romania and left for USA at the age of 16. He grew in Pennsylvania and studied physics at Berkeley, there he joined J. Robert Oppenheimer's lab and started to work on his doctoral thesis. David Bohm became famous for his work on Plasma Theory-The fourth state of matter and he got an appointment at Princeton University. There he met Albert Einstein and he regarded Bohm as his intellectual successor. His days in Princeton were numbered because of the results of political situations he faced. He moved to Sao Paulo as a Professor of Theoretical Physics. Brazil became the home of former Nazis so he hated being there and decided gladly to go to Israel when Haifa Technion offered him their chair in physics. There he met his wife; Saral and moved to Bristol.

David Bohm was impressed by Jiddu Krishnamurti's philosophical and sociological ideas.  A fruitful exchange between Bohm and Krishnamurti has occured and they wrote the book "The ending of time". Krishnamurti tought that the root of our problems lies in man's quest for security. He asked : "What will make a human mind change? What new factor is necessary for this? Bohm answered:"It is the ability to observe deeply whatever it is that is holding the person and preventing him from changing."

Bohm was disturbed that the two greatest scientist of 20th century; Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr were good friends once but later they became noncommunicable. Einstein was working on relativity and Bohr was working on quantum theory. He thought that if they were in a dialogue they might have listened properly to each other's opinion and moved out beyond relativity and quantum theory. He also saw that this failure was widespread in society either.

In his later years, Bohm wrote a proposal for a solution that has become known as "Bohm Dialogue", in which "equal status" and "free space" form the most important outline specifications of communication and the appreciation of differing personal beliefs. He suggested that if these Dialogue groups were experienced on a sufficiently wide scale, they could help overcome the isolation because he thought that a group about 20 to 40 people is almost a microcosm of the whole society.


A dialogue session-First impressions

"During the past few decades, modern technology, with radio, television, air travel, and satellites, has woven a network of communications which puts each part of the world into almost instant contact with all the other parts. Yet, in spite of this world wide system of linkages, there is, at this very moment, a general feeling that communication is breaking down everywhere, on an unparalleled scale." David Bohm-On Dialogue

Involving in a dialogue session...When we were taken to a dialogue room, I had no idea how it would be. I asked Astrid whether we take any notebooks or pens, she answered no, nothing is needed. The only needed thing was ourselves, totally and only ourselves. We were approximately 20 people in the room where chairs were situated in a circle. At the centre of the circle there was a small round carpet and on the carpet there were a bell, a stone-afterwards it was called talking symbol- and big burning candle. We sat and there was a silence. People generally don't like silence, neither do I. I felt discomforted.

Heidemarie and Michael, called Dialogue Facilitators, sat next to each other and explained what will go on.  A dialogue facilitator is a person who gives short explanation of the subject that the group will talk. Anyone who would like to talk should step to centre and take the talking symbol, anyone who needed silence should ring the bell. When somebody holds the talking symbol the others can't talk. The most important core feature of a dialogue is to listen deeply.

I have met my friends only a few hours ago and we were in a room where everybody could see each others' eyes, faces, sloughs, body language...Just in ten minutes I felt relaxed because everybody was talking from inside. I believe close friends should sit next to each other not opposite, and sitting in a circle made me think that this group will get very close to each other. Think of it : you don't have distractor such as a pen, a notebook, cellular phone, there is no obstacle such as a table, you directly look who's talking. This is the miracle of sitting in a circle. You only concentrate on who's talking and this is the only thing we need for communication.