In ourselves as individuals and groups, there are certain qualities and views which are welcome, some that are neutral, and some that are less welcome.

Individual shadows

Somewhat rambling…

When this occurs at our individual level, those qualities and views which are less welcome – those which does not fit with how we would like to see ourselves – are often referred to as the shadow.

They are there, but typically seen more easily in others, and then as unwelcome even there, as a disturbance, something we wish would go away. They appear to remind us on qualities in ourselves we don’t appreciate.

Although really – they remind us that we have an exclusive self-identity, one that is less inclusive than life itself. It is a reminder that we have an identity in the first place, and our core identity is the belief in the idea of I – placed on only a segment of what is.

As long as there is the belief in I, there will be an exclusive identity. Some parts of the terrain fit with this identity, and other parts do not fit – and are experienced as a disturbance.

So this experience of a disturbance, of discomfort, is a gentle and persistent reminder of not being aligned with what is. We believe in the idea of I, and thus a relatively fixed and limited identity, while there is no I inherent in any aspect of what is. What is, is simple selflessness.

The belief in the idea of I clashes with selflessness – inherent in all there is and existence itself, so there is bound to be a degree of suffering there. And this suffering and discomfort, this nagging sense of something being not quite right, can only be resolved through realizing selflessness.

Group shadows

The same dynamic shows up at group levels – in couples, families, smaller groups, communities, countries, and globally.

As a group, we may have a certain identity formed by the reason for and/or history of the group, and there is also an automatic identity formed by the shared identity of the most influential group participants.

So here also, there is an identity – explicit although most often implicit, and certain qualities and views fit this identity and other qualities and views do not fit this identity so well. Some are easily welcome, others are less welcome.

This is just a natural aspect of group dynamics, but it can be quite distressing for those group participants who feel that something is coming up in them which is marginalized by the group. No matter how apparently open and welcoming the group is, or intends to be, this seems to happen.

The only remedy may be to set aside time specifically to address what has been left out of the group, to explicitly welcome in the marginalized qualities and views and the people in which these come up.

Deeksha group

In the deeksha group Sunday, this happened. As it would in any group.

During our first deeksha, I mainly experienced nothing at all – apart from various forms of resistance coming up. Others I talked with later similarly reported experiencing nothing at all.

Yet, when we shared our experiences in the group, these views were clearly marginalized. Those speaking up all had various remarkable experiences to report, often one more “spiritual” than the other. An atmosphere was created where the voicing of unremarkable experiences did not seem to fit in, or invited in.

This partly has to do with the facilitation, creating the expectation in the group of certain types of experiences. And it partly has to do with the participants in the group, wanting this for the group and themselves.

Both created an atmosphere where experiences of plain resistance or of nothing remarkable at all were marginalized, not exactly not welcome, but not explicitly welcomed either.

To remedy this in such a group atmosphere, there needs to be an explicit welcoming in of those qualities and views, a time set aside for welcoming them in, and even explicitly honoring them as valid contributions to the group. This helps everyone to find it in themselves, and see how these were previously left out of the group sharings.

These are all natural group dynamics. Marginalization happens. And it typically takes a very conscious effort to allow whatever has been marginalized – views, experiences, qualities and those identifying with them – into the group, often through setting aside a time for explicitly welcoming them in and honoring them.

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