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Theory and Practice for the Generation of Group Wisdom
© 2003 David La Chapelle

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A Conceptual Framework
The Ground of Wisdom
Capacity to Perceive the Field
The Practice of the Group
Practices and Bhava

Body Practices
Body Scan
Scanning the Nervous System
Scanning the Endocrine System

Emotional Body Practices
Non-Reactive Heart Practice
Recognizing All Beings As Family

Perception and the Arising of Wisdom
Dual Visual Practice

Speech and Wisdom
Naming the Obvious
Use of Aligned Language as a Seed Structure of Inspiration

Shadow Work
Exercise: Individual Shadow Inventory
Resistant Shadows
First Practice
Second Practice

Meditation Practices: Basic Concentration Exercise
Moving Off of Objects Meditation
Awareness of Awareness Practice

The Use of Sound to Generate Group Wisdom


“When we try and pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
- John Muir

“I first believed without any hesitation in the existence of the soul, and then I wondered about the secret of its nature. I persevered and strove in search of the soul, and found at last that I myself was the cover of my soul. I realized that in me which believed and that in me which wondered, that which persevered in me, and that which found, and that which was found at last, was no other than my soul.

Since then I have seen all souls as my soul, and realized my soul as the soul of all; and what bewilderment it was when I realized that I alone was, if there were anyone; that I am whatever and whoever exists; and that I shall be whoever there will be in the future. And there was no end to my happiness and joy.”

-Hazrat Inyat Khan (Sufi Teacher)


The material in this paper has arisen out of over thirty years of working intensively with both individuals and groups around the processes of spiritual opening. I have sat in groups that came together for a day as strangers and I have facilitated groups that lasted years amidst a kind of intimacy that can only mature in such a setting. Each group, in the hundreds I have been a part of, have their own nuance, texture and quality.

And yet there have been some common themes and processes that occur no matter what the context has been.

The intent of this paper is to explore the theory and practice of group wisdom. There is a necessary abstraction that takes place in such a survey. Supporting the abstractions of this paper are countless hours of focused attention and the discipline of being present for the pain, joy, grief, ecstasy and miracle of human beings moving beyond their limited identifications and attachments.

It has been a profound gift to be a part of the many hundreds of lives that have informed this work. I thank each and every person who has contributed to the unfolding of this understanding. And I thank the mysterious workings of an intelligence of which we are a part, which has set this inquiry in motion.

A Conceptual Framework

The Ground of Wisdom

Wisdom arises as a natural result of increased coherence within manifest aggregates of creation. For example the human body is a complex manifestation of the wisdom of the whole. The various subsystems, organs, structures and processes within the body work to create an organism capable of remarkable functions. The wisdom of the body is such that it can maintain balance even under intense stress and shifting environmental conditions. When the body is functioning correctly, the wisdom of the body is somewhat transparent. This bodily wisdom creates a vehicle of expression which does not interrupt the flow of awareness from subtler structures of the psyche and mind.

A group can manifest a similar transparent wisdom. The functioning of the group can create a body of capacity through which more subtle states of integration and experience can flow. When a group functions in this way, it can become transparent like the body itself.

As a deeper understanding of the structure of matter arises, the wisdom of interconnectivity is evidenced. It has been shown, both experimentally and theoretically, that quantum particles communicate instantaneously across time and space. This communication creates an information flow, which helps structure the various manifestations of creation.

Within our human experience, scientific insights, great works of art, new inventions, medical solutions and philosophy are but a few of the domains that have emerged through the capacity of either an individual or collective to achieve a resonant coherence with the subtle interconnectivity of the universe.

The pattern of the whole carries within its complexity complete structures of information that appear in consciousness as distinct formations. These formations can be apprehended directly with the mind/body/soul.

For instance a quality of heaviness in the chest, which initially is a body sensation, upon contemplation becomes a nested series of memories which ultimately opens outward to a pure state of longing for connection. The information of the “heavy” chest is a combination of cellular memory, neurological data, emotional feeling tones and pure states of being. The formation of the mind and body experienced as a “heavy chest” is an encoded matrix of many dimensions of being.

A correct alignment of body/mind and soul can help sustain a resonant relationship with the deeper formations of our existence. When an individual achieves these levels of coherence they manifest wisdom. When such alignment occurs within a group field then wisdom begins to manifest within the collective.

Coherence implies a refinement of the energy systems that comprise the various vehicles of each embodied soul. These vehicles, or bodies, in classical esoteric studies, are a nested series of information carrying structures made up of gradations of consciousness. These gradations, when experienced in various states of contemplation, appear as having differing densities and are often experienced as varying layers of “light”.

Wisdom arises as a function of the discernment which emerges as the higher frequency “bodies” become more readily experienced in the sensory world. The increase in frequency of the mind and body allows the perceiver to directly “see” the state of any conditioned form, whether that form be an individual or a group, or a subtle form such as a philosophical insight, scientific insight, or mystical vision.

The wisdom of the whole is a useful phrase when considering this process. The ability to discern the true nature of any situation rests on accurate perception, unclouded by projection and distortion arising from

incomplete need structures. This open field of awareness, that simply rests in what is present, is a function of a well integrated system. As such awareness develops, the interconnection of the phenomenal world becomes more readily apparent. The subjective experience of this interconnection can mean an increased sense of wonder, awe, appreciation of beauty, increased tranquility, well-being, and a feeling of flow or streaming energy.

Wisdom arises as a natural outcome of the felt sense of connection to the fundamental field of presence residing in each and every life situation. This presence is inherent in the co-arising field of self and other. An analogy from quantum physics is helpful when considering this process. Each and every atom has been shown to arise out of its connection with every other atom in the universe (Bell’s Theorem). In other words, the information necessary to form the individualized particle is derived from the entire field of the manifest physical world. Wisdom, within this analogy, is the totality of the vibrating fields of all the atoms in the universe, each one contributing back to the overall connection with information about the their act of formation.

When a group comes together it is made up of individuated points of view, each colored and formed by the destiny line of each person present. These destiny lines include a stream of cause and effect that reaches back through layers of time. These layers include the ancestor stream (encoded both in the DNA and more subtle energy systems), the soul’s own incarnational experiences, the embedded patterns and conditioning of the cultural epoch, and time of embodiment. Necessarily, each individual is still in the process of evolving and developing, so the point of view represented is a function of the stages of development each individual has achieved, as well as the collective maturity, or lack of, in the cultural crucible.

Within any group there is a spectrum of awakening present. Awakening, in this context, is the ability to respond to the whole field arising directly, with a minimum of projected content. This awakening is an energetic phenomenon that communicates the coherence of the awakened state to others in the group. When two or more individuals begin to ground their perception from a state of increased coherence, standing waves of wisdom begin to form in which the intrinsic connection of life and the responsibility that arises from this connection become manifest.

Wisdom is an abiding state spontaneously arising when awareness has opened behind the situational identification of habituated responses. Conditioned responses, incomplete developmental sequences, belief systems that have been taken on from the culture of the time, unresolved emotional complexes, and distortions in the functioning of the physical body are a few of the layers that occlude present time awareness. These veils limit access to the field of vibrating presence that is the body of wisdom in any life situation.

A considerable portion of any group’s energy is devoted to the remediation of these various veils. In essence the group becomes the holding pattern, or container, in which the deep imperative of the soul’s desire for wholeness can stir. This innate desire for more whole experience, rooted in each and every being, is the motive power for the attainment of wisdom.

Wisdom is the benediction of attention to the process of life itself. Implicit in this statement is the understanding that each and every event, situation or occurrence carries waveforms of information about the totality of existence. It is our beliefs, attitudes and incomplete emotional processes that occlude the capacity to bear witness to the innate wisdom of creation. The manifestation of this unified field has been couched in religious terms for most of humanity’s history.

The history of mystical experiences testifies to the direct and immediate impact of such contact. Nearly all reports back from this grand experiment in humanity’s contact with the divine, attest to a fundamental figure ground reversal. The field that is seen as other, suddenly becomes oneself. “I am that” is the report back from the fields of exploration. The realization of fundamental identity is the appearance of wisdom.

The maturation of the form necessary for a correct realization has been depicted throughout the ages in a feminine context: Sophia in the Christian stream; the great Shakti in the yogic disciplines; Grandmother Spider Woman and the White Buffalo Calf woman are two examples in the Native American Stream.

In the Hopi creation myth Grandmother Spider Woman lays a shawl of wisdom over five forms assembled from the five colors of the earth. This act is critical to the emergence of the human family. This shawl of wisdom becomes the activating principle for the emergence of life in the formerly inert form. From a yogic perspective, these activating veils are bodies of “light” which wrap the individual soul in its journey through time.

Group wisdom is a co-arising field of connection that begins to shift the locus of identity from the habituated story line and ego formations into a more dynamic flow of awareness. This generally occurs when a sufficient shift of energetic alignment occurs in the individuals present. It has been this author’s experience that individuals awaken in various stages and at various times within the group process. At any given time within any group there will be a spectrum of opening occurring.

In order to master the functioning of the various vehicles of our expression, we have necessarily taken on the embodied function of identifying with them. In other words, we assume that we are our bodies, that we are our emotions and that we are our mental fluctuations. To the degree that our awareness is identified with these particular vehicles then the bandwidth of our attention is necessarily limited to the rate of vibration of these particular vehicles. There is a certain degree of wisdom embedded in each of the vehicles of our expression. But there is a far more complete wisdom that arises as a function of the coherent integration of these vehicles. This coherence allows the sum to be greater than the parts. This integration produces a palpable sense of current, which is experienced in the body and mind. This current has been described throughout history from a variety of vantage points. Common to all commentaries are reports of deep states of absorption and a literal movement of energy flowing in the body and mind. The flow of this current is the moving vehicle through which contact with more universal functions becomes a direct and immediate experience.

In a sporting event the flow of the game becomes a focus greater than the body. The body is in the service of the wisdom of the context, which in this case is the unfolding of the overall game. I have talked with several athletes who have had profound experiences of this state. One, the quarterback of a football team, had the experience of knowing before he passed exactly where the receiver was and “knowing” that the receiver would infallibly make the catch. The act of passing was merely a confirmation of this knowing. This experience of life already scripting its own outcome is a hallmark of a deep state of awareness and wisdom.

In another example, a ski racer who had trained for the Olympics was racing in Europe and slipped into a state of consciousness in which he knew before each gate exactly how the turn would take place. This knowing was enacted in his body and mind and the resulting precision meant that he beat the rest of field by seconds, which is a large margin in ski racing. Again the wisdom of the state of flow meant that life was experienced as a phenomenon arising out of a deeper knowing. The ski racer reported that time slowed down, a tremendous sense of peace and ease manifest, and the functioning in the physical world was flawless. This is an example of wisdom in action.

An interesting demonstration of group wisdom is when a flock of birds, such as starlings, form a ball of moving individuals, each of which turns exactly and precisely at the same time in such a way as to hold the structure of the whole in place, despite intricate aerial maneuvers. There is a palpable sense of whole field awareness, or intelligence, when witnessing such a phenomenon.

There is a communion that takes place between the individual and the universal that can only really function when awareness of the individual’s vehicles fades away. The body, emotions and mind become an integrated support system for the capacity to directly experience the unconditioned flow of wisdom.

This experience follows the lines of the energetic body and is often reported as a tingling or opening at the top of the head, movement of energy in the spine and a surge of energy in sacrum. With an increased vibrational rate the ubtle energy body’s ability to come into resonance with whole field awareness increases dramatically.

This integration takes place simultaneously at various levels of each individual. The physical body begins to optimize its latent evolutionary potential. This change occurs in a wide variety of components of the body itself. At an emotional level there is a clearing of self-referring feelings, so that one’s emotions become more buoyant, open and less grasping. The mind simultaneously empties, and becomes more of a lens of direct perception rather than a repository of conditioned points of view which distort the brilliance of the present moment.

Capacity to Perceive The Field

“The field is everything.”- Albert Einstein

“This body, oh son of Kunti, is known as the field; and he who is aware of it is called the knower of the field by the wise.”
- Bhagavad Gita Chapter Thirteen, Verse One

“And know that I am the knower of the field in all the fields, O bharata. The knowledge of the field and the knower of that, in my opinion is true knowledge.”
- Bhagavad Gita Chapter Thirteen, Verse Two

In electromagnetism a field arises as a function of the motion of charged particles. In the case of gravitation, a field arises as a function of the condensation of matter along the curvature of space. In the first case, a field is generated by the movement of objects (electrons), in the second case the field arises as a function of the action of the field of space and time itself. You could say that the field of space time is the matrix out which matter is organized. The compelling existence of the field that holds us to the planet is a function of this great attractive force. We are conditioned to perceive the objects of this world, and by extension the objects of our mind, as generating the forms, meaning and depth of our existence. In fact, the fields of subtle energy are the matrix out of which these solid forms arise.

Wisdom, from the standpoint of the field metaphor, appears as a movement of perception away from objects, internally and externally, and into a direct perception of the field out of which these objects arise.

In a group setting, this movement begins to coalesce when the dependency on internalized states of being, and on externally fixed perceptions shifts. This shift is a function of a relaxation of the heart, for a contracted heart defends itself by perceiving objects rather than flows.

As the heart begins to open the capacity to recognize the fields out of which life arises becomes possible as a direct perception. These fields are experienced as states of awareness: overwhelming compassion, great tenderness or other such manifestations.

A group at this stage of maturation has a deep quality of entrainment. Attention is stabilized, minds quiet and a palpable sense of energy moving through the gathering becomes the signature of the event. Intuition deepens, more is simply “known” and less has to be arrived through the push and pull of personality action and reaction.

The Bhagavad Gita describes the knower of the field as the embodiment of wisdom. Group dynamics provide an explicit way of exploring this quality of wisdom as the group interaction tends to manifest a variety of states, qualities and “fields”. The group becomes the reflecting mirror of dynamics that allows individuals to gain a sense of how experience arises as a function of a deeper field.

Often in a well-entrained group field the synchronicity of external and internal events reaches a more noticeable threshold. Patterns of action in the physical world manifest in relationship to psychic content. For instance, in a recent group setting an individual was working on an ancestor line and at a critical moment in the unfolding of this process a powerful gust of wind rose from a relatively quiet atmosphere, and the door into the room was opened mysteriously at the most intense moment of the inner work with the ancestors. It was as if the ancestors literally opened the door to the present and made their presence known.

In a less entrained state the movement of the wind and the relationship of the psyche may have gone unnoticed. By virtue of the group cohesion and the increased vibratory capacity of those present, the synchronicity of the two events was unmistakable and, in fact, provided an affirmation of the inner work that was being undertaken.

A recognition of the field out of which events constellate ultimately leads one away from identification with particular positions and points of view. As the sensitivity to the field context increases, the sense of a concrete point of view begins to diffuse into an intuition and experience that reality is a co-arising phenomenon.

The field reveals the form, rather than forms revealing the field. Einstein interviewed a house painter who had fallen from a roof top and lived. He asked the painter what the experience was like and the painter replied that he felt weightless and somewhat ecstatic as he fell, before hitting the ground. As Einstein responded to the embodied experience of gravity that the painter had revealed, he was able to concretize his own intuition about relativity.

Becoming aware of field dynamics is a helpful process in releasing the fixation of point of view that creates so much division and discord within the human family. As the awareness of the field out of which experience arises becomes established, the point of view of the individual is moved towards more universal processes. This is the blossoming of wisdom.

The Practice of the Group

A fundamental practice arising out of the exploration of group wisdom is the witnessing of the group itself. There is a phrase from Buddhism called maha mudra, roughly translated as the great position, or form, which speaks to this practice. A mudra is a bodily position (often hands) which, when held, affects the flow of energy through the body/mind of the practitioner. The many asanas or body positions of yoga could be considered mudras as well.

The maha mudra, or great position, is the body out of which experience arises. A group provides a powerful container in which to explore how the position of the greater whole informs the circumstance of the co-arising field of being which is the ground of wisdom.

Maha Mudra is also known as the great seal. The great seal means that the activities and actions of the relative world become a seal, or confirmation of the flow and movement of wisdom itself.

In any group the multiplicity of points of view, conditioning, and direct openings to deeper states of being provide a dynamic and always changing matrix in which whole field structures can be realized. For instance in one group an individual began to experience a much deeper state of connection, (which was felt subjectively as a very grounded sense of body presence and larges amount of energy surging through the spine and head). As this connection matured others in the group began to feel an opening within their own minds and bodies as the flow of the field began to induce movement in more than just the one individual.

The group becomes the practice. How the group forms, how the personalities relate, how the energetics manifest, how the shadows constellate, how insight appears, how conflict is resolved, how mind, speech and body interrelate, all demonstrate the many dimensional functioning of the human condition.

This practice is strong medicine. For in bearing witness to the complexity of group dynamics we are witnessing the full spectrum of the human condition, from the sublime to the most contracted and intransigent.

Because the dynamic interrelationship of individual psyches are beyond the control of any one person or point of view, groups become magnificent cloud chambers in which the trajectory of highly charged pathways of wisdom (and darkness) become visible.

Bearing witness to the multiplicity of functions and waveforms within group settings requires a strong interior core, for groups can magnetize some of the most intense forms of resistance. Groups can also reach sublime forms of resonant relationship, truly bearing witness to the family of humanity.

The practice of the group is the practice of welcoming the multiplicity of our existence into concrete form and generating compassionate insight into the fundamental conditions of our wisdom.

The heart of group wisdom is the realization that we are all a piece of the whole, each reflecting back unique signatures of expression. Sensing the uniqueness of each expression as an extension of deep knowing is an act of perception that is a manifestation of group wisdom.

Just as in a hologram the more of the hologram you illuminate the more precise the resulting image becomes, so too, in exploring group wisdom we are using the capacity of group to reflect a deeper structure of reality through the intensification of consciousness that takes place when many are gathered together.

In order to realize the intrinsic capacity of a group there are certain inner attitudes which seem to maximize the appearance of whole field wisdom. (These will be explored in greater depth in the section on Bhava, or Feeling.) Of these, the most important is a quality of deep acceptance, or compassion.

For it is in polarizing against experience that our internal resistance becomes concretized as hardened attitude and point of view. On the other hand, a group provides a vital, living fire into which we can cast the deeply entrenched patterns of heart-closing judgment.

Practices and Bhava

The paradox of the human condition is that each and every being has the capacity to open, in a moment, to an internal coherence that allows direct participation in a state of wisdom, and yet we live, often, in states that are incomplete and erratic in the experience of this knowingness.

Because of this condition, wisdom traditions throughout the ages have generated practices that help tune the various vehicles. These practices are specific uses of attention, posture, breath, intention and creative flow which manifest conditions in the body and mind which allow deeper connection to occur. Such practices help create the conditions in which such openings can occur, however they do not guarantee such an opening will take place. This is the dilemma of any practice. The practice can point the body and mind in a direction in which greater coherence lies, but it cannot guarantee a specific outcome. Relative increase in body strength, endurance, concentration, emotional equanimity and mental clarity may take place, all of which are beneficial. Yet the awakening of deep states of wisdom, a function of a waveform connection to intrinsic fields of universal capacity, does not necessarily occur.

The deepest states of wisdom appear to be generated by a self that transcends the limited identification of the personality. They arrive as a communication of whole field intelligence and cannot be manipulated or controlled. Such manipulation and control may succeed in creating conditions of knowledge, power and control, but they cannot become the portals to true whole field awareness.

The portal to deepest wisdom is the surrender of the individual’s sense of being the source of their experiences. This is a counterintuitive position for a “normal” person to take. In our habituated experience of the world we believe that our own actions and will are the source of our life experience. This erroneous assumption leads to relative results, in that we can certainly will many things to happen, but we may find that we are still cut off from a direct experience of more fundamental connection.

What appears to be a necessary ingredient in any successful application of practices is the intent and feeling tone of the action. Bhava is a word in Sanskrit which describes this condition. It is the bhava, or underlying attitude of our heart that helps manifest the deepest states of awakening. We can undertake numerous practices and never achieve anything more than a relative increase in situational capacity. Or we can abandon ourselves to the deepest bhava, or heart sense, that opens our individual practices into a universal field of experience.

At the heart of every being there is an intrinsic capacity to recognize universal states of wisdom. This capacity can be nurtured through great beauty, soaring music, inspiring personal courage, great dedication or other external triggers. But the feeling itself is a bhava of correct relationship to the whole of creation in which the fabric of connection, out of which life manifests, becomes a palpable experience.

The generation of a correct bhava, or attitude, in a group is critical to the manifestation of group wisdom. This attitude is not an externalized form of alignment, though many religious and political structures attempt to instill such a feeling; rather it is an emergence of the intrinsic heart within each and every being. Groups pose interesting challenges in the generation of this intrinsic bhava.

Because we are such social beings, accustomed from an early age to reading the context of our environment and morphing ourselves in order to belong, we tend to adopt the subtle cues from the groups we are with to help to determine our behavior and often, more profoundly, our very perceptions and expectations. The collective cueing of the group becomes the determinant of the state of consciousness which will manifest within the group.

Body Practices

Awareness of the physical body is a helpful adjunct to the grounding of wisdom states. Because the body is such a profound repository of memory, most beings have only an incomplete ability to synchronize awareness with the body. Memories that encode various traumas have their own distinct protective mechanisms, which often include states of unconsciousness, numbness, lack of feeling, heaviness, pain, and dissociation.

These pools of memory constrain the capacity to attend to real time experiences. Feeling tones, emotional energy and even conceptual points of view are often held, beneath the level of conscious awareness within the body/mind. Left unnoticed these pools create gaps in the flow of energy within the body/mind. In the context of a group, these body memories carry potent charges that are often catalyzed by the group interaction and can create significant anomalies in the group field. The projection of unconscious body memory in the group field can in fact nearly freeze the flow of energy between individuals.

In any given group there will be those who are energetically more empathic than others. For these individuals the unresolved body memories of others in the group can create a disturbing amount of static, which can at times feel overwhelming. In a similar vein the unresolved body memories can “coat” the verbal communication. When this occurs it can be very frustrating for the individual who is speaking and for the group, because what is being communicated body to body is often at odds with the conscious intent and conceptual frame of the speaker. This discontinuity can create considerable discord within a group field as individuals endeavor to return to some coherence within their own expression. Members of the group often adopt a variety of defenses in the face of the discontinuity. These include withdrawal, challenge, over-empathetic identification, loss of attention, and acuity of focus to name a few.

It is possible, with some practice, to develop the ability to scan the body with one’s attention and receive reliable information about the state of the various physical systems. This information is a function of the fact that every organ system and bodily component has its own frequency of vibration. The rate of vibration is a function of the tissue involved (structure) and the flow of consciousness through that structure (information). Habitual mental and emotional patterning create standing waves of information content which can eventually solidify into various disease states.

A rough analogy would be a musical instrument such as a guitar. The guitar and strings, tuned to certain frequencies, would represent the body and organ systems. The music played on the guitar is a function of the information flow which moves the strings, (as embodied through the mind/body of the guitar player). Just as out-of-tune guitar strings are readily perceivable to the listener, so too are the various bodily components able to be registered with subtle perceptions.

The content of these perceptions are often experienced as a visual field, so the organs will show up in the inner vision with a certain color or shape. There are other modes of knowing which also can be brought into play. All of the external senses are mirrored in the internal world. Sound, kinesthetic awareness and vision are the most common modes of experiencing internal vibration. Occasionally taste and smell come into play but these are much less likely to occur.

Internal attention is a function of the clarity of the mindstream (the sum total of the content of the mind as it moves through time). As more and more personal material is released, the mindstream becomes more like a clear river. Through the flow of this clear awareness the content of internal states of being in the body, as well as external situations, becomes easier to access.

The turning of attention into specific areas of the body is a good exercise in developing the ability to discriminate between different vibratory states. This ability is very useful when practiced in a group setting because it becomes easier to perceive the true emanation of both other individuals and the group itself.

Body Scan

Each organ system and bodily component has particular vibration at which it resonates. (It is possible with Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines to actually show the specific frequency dropout of diseased tissue). The purpose of this exercise is to begin to train the use of awareness so that it can become a tool for identifying and ultimately balancing each of the organ systems.

This exercise is best begun by focusing on the heart itself, as the heart has some of the strongest vibrational signatures of any organ in the body. In fact the heart encodes all of the other organ systems within its rhythmic structure.

With an erect spine take a few breaths to center yourself. Bring your attention to the heart. Rest your attention on the heart and relax into the attention stream that is flowing towards the heart. As your attention begins to deepen, become receptive to either a visual, auditory or kinesthetic sense of how the heart is functioning. This could register as a color, a tone, a shape, or a combination of all of the above.

What is generally reported in this kind of exercise is a combination of energies. A darkened shape, or a density of some kind may be experienced. And there will also be a higher frequency indicated as a kind of pulsation or light.

In the initial scan you want to simply observe the state of the heart and see what kind of information can be received about its quality or state.

After having scanned the state of the heart, then you want to tune into your energetic body at the top of the head. There will be a higher frequency quality above the top of the head. Soften the crown and allow this frequency to descend. Use the stream of your attention as the bridge helping to guide the higher frequency towards the heart. As the higher frequency bathes the heart, watch for changes.

This process can dislodge deeply held places of unconscious memory. Sometimes feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, or other emotional imbalances can emerge. Simply stay anchored to the stream of incoming energy as a way to stabilize the release of deeper patterns.

Stay with the process until it feels organically finished. Return your attention to the exterior world. Then monitor your body sensations and emotional feeling tone to see what changes the process has produced. Individuals have reported a variety of responses to this exercise, including an easier time breathing, greater tranquility, more acute mental functioning as well as a lessening of anxiety and emotional upset.

This process can be done with every system within the body. The systems listed below are the critical ones to address. But once facility in this process is developed, any part of the body can be addressed.

Scanning the Nervous System

The two most important systems for grounding the higher frequency of an awakened wisdom state are the nervous system and the endocrine system. The nervous system provides the conduit for the movement of subtle energy throughout the body and the endocrine glands provide the matrix of feeling tone and organizing energy patterns to the body.

Scanning the nervous system begins at the brain and flows down the spine. The major contractions of energy that sustain much of our personality dilemma are lodged along the spinal column. So scanning this central column of nerve flow is not always the easiest task. The degree of contraction present will sometimes block the ability to “see” into these areas. Persistent gentle attention to the process will slowly open the channels of the nervous system.

Sitting in a comfortable erect position, begin with several deep breaths. Reach around and make contact with your sacrum with your right hand. Breathe into this contact, and let your attention settle into the base of the spine.

Remove your hand and let your awareness continue to rest in the sacrum. Visualize the vertebrae that make up the backbone. In between the vertebrae visualize the flow of nerves from out of the central spinal column and into the various organs and body structures.

Systematically work your way up the spinal column, paying attention to the nerve flow as you do. When and if you find some darkness, or density, stay with the location for a time, and use your breath to relax into the site until it begins to open.

Continue this practice until the top of the neck is reached.

To scan the brain it is best to begin from the top down. Move your attention to the top of the head and see if you can feel the movement of the subtle states of energy there. This could be felt as a slight tingling, or sensation of pressure.

Once this contact has been made, then begin to bring your attention downwards into the brain itself. Focus your awareness in the brain and notice what you “see”. Again if you encounter any darkness or resistance, rest your attention in that spot until it begins to open. You can guide the flow of energy from the top of the head towards the areas that are opening.

After you have completed the head scan, then relax your attention. Notice how your spinal column and brain feel.

Using your breath you can bring a wave of attention into the whole system, beginning at the base of the spine with the in breath and moving up the spine to the top of the head. On your out breath bring your attention downwards into the heart.

On the next breath repeat this process.

Continue this cycle for as many breaths as you wish.

Scanning the Endocrine System

The endocrine glands are critical to the felt sense of our wellbeing. They are also important transducing stations mediating between the chakras and the body. The hormones secreted by the endocrine system play a critical role in the feeling tone of the mind and body.

Scanning the endocrine system begins with the pineal-pituitary access. This primary access of glandular function is critical to stabilizing the brain fields. Opening these two glands with the process can help bring about a deep stabilization of one’s emotional state. Once these have been balanced, bringing the attention systematically down the chain of endocrine glands is a powerful way to integrate the subtle body into the functioning of the physical body.

This practice is aided by having a clear picture of where the endocrine glands are and what they look like. You can consult a good anatomy book for this information.

Sitting in an upright position take several deep breaths to relax and center. Then bring your attention to the top of the head. Look for a sensation of energy, pressure or tingling at the top of your head. After anchoring to the crown, bring the tip of your tongue to the hard pallet. Your tongue is now pointing directly towards the pituitary gland. Bring your attention to the pituitary gland and the pineal gland, which sits behind and above the pituitary.

Notice the shape, color, texture and quality of each of the glands. Then bring your attention along the stream of energy from the top of your head into the pineal gland, vitalizing and energizing it. Do the same with the pituitary. Stay with the process until it feels organically finished.

Repeat this same cycle with the other endocrine glands:

• Thyroid
• Thymus
• Pancreas
• Adrenals
• Ovaries/Testes

This same practice can be done with any of the other major organ systems:


Small Intestine
Large Intestine

Connective Tissue (which wraps around all the organs and muscles)
Major Muscles of the body

Emotional Body Practices

Our emotions are a measure of our response to the world we inhabit. The crucible for the formation of our emotional reality is our family of origin. Here patterns are laid down which create habitual responses to our outer environment. Many of these responses are held below the level of conscious awareness. One of the most challenging aspects of any group field is the emergence of these emotional patterns.

There is a direct relationship between the amount of attention a member of a group needs and the degree of their unconscious emotional process. What is generally true within group dynamics is that the level of emotional maturity in each individual tends to correlate with the capacity to register the whole field functions of the group. This translates as the ability to sense what is occurring in the wider group field and the likelihood of appropriate response to the emergent process of the wider field. Individuals who have less awareness of their own emotional process tend to fall into pools of narcissism, which can create problems for the group as a whole. The group field becomes a surrogate family of origin mirror, and strong emotional energies can be activated which may sabotage the capacity of the group to become a cohesive whole, which embodies higher frequencies of awareness and wisdom.

Emotional maturity is a function of self awareness and of an integrated sense of identity. The more coherent one’s identity is, and the more grounded that identity is in the substrate of ongoing being, the less need there is to manipulate, control or distort the external world. The locus of identity moves from one’s own sensations of individualized self into a greater field of being. This transformation of identity is critical to the embodiment of wisdom.

So long as the locus of emotional processing remains in the habitual loops of the limbic centers within the brain, then there is a contamination of the sense of self with evolutionarily driven qualities of fear, competition and suspicion. The limbic structures in the mid brain have been shown to be the center of our emotional experience. A very simple indicator of whether a person is processing emotions through the lower limbic system is that their eyes will shift back and forth. This unconscious eye movement appears to be linked to stress that is stored in the limbic centers.

Within the realm of limbic-centered emotional reality the world is necessarily hardened into a discrete subject and object realm in which fear is a strong emotional undercurrent. This domain of fear creates difficulty in any group field, for the group becomes the testing ground of the fear-based emotional programming. This testing can come in the form of undue competition, the need for excessive challenge, passive-aggressive behavior, withdrawal from the group field, inability to read social cues correctly, misconstrued motives and stonewalling.

Without activation of higher brain centers as mediators of the limbic systems functions, the push and pull of the emotional body becomes an endless seat of insatiable need. The fruit of this activation is demonstrated in terms of the capacity to anchor higher states of wisdom in a relative field.

In addition to the physiological patterning surrounding the emotional body there is also the subtle body to consider. The vibratory rate of the chakras, their degree of opening and integration, is a powerful conditioner of emotional reality. One of the primary values of attention to the vibratory domains of the chakras is that one’s locus of identity can shift from a predominantly self-oriented point of view to an inclusion of a greater substrate of being. If the chakras are not activated, then the access to transpersonal domains is not as available. Without this access the recurrent frustration of the small self will continue to create patterns of emotional need which will necessarily sabotage any group process.

Non-reactive Heart Practice

Sitting with a straight spine, take several slow deep breaths into the heart center. Place the hands in prayer position, finger tip meeting finger tip with the thumb touching the center of the sternum. (This mudra, or hand position, balances energy flows from the lower five chakras. The contact with the thumbs initiates a current that can help activate the thymus gland. Without proper thymus gland activation it is more difficult to sort our self from other. Lack of differentiation at this level makes it hard for the heart to open).

Bring the breath to meet the contact of the thumbs on the thymus.

After several breaths begin systematically to bring to mind the significant relationships you have in your life. As you focus on each person notice how your body/mind feels in the area of the chest. If you find yourself in reaction to the person, then return your breath to your own heart until you have a stable sense of self present. Then return to contemplating the person again. Notice if there is still a reaction present. Continue this exercise of breathing into the heart center until you can consider the person without a reaction.

The goal of this practice is to help create a steady sense of self, which is not dependent on the habitual emotional reaction patterns of the heart and mind. If the heart can be strengthened, then the likelihood of hooking into negative action/reaction patterns will be much less in any group setting.

Recognizing All Beings as Family

The goal of this practice is to generate something call bodhi citta... which means a stabilization of the mind stuff (or chitta) through compassion. As westerners we tend to identify our minds with the content of our minds: the thoughts and feelings we have we take to be our minds. From an Eastern point of view the mind is actually a function of how the underlying field of energy, or citta, is vibrating. A highly agitated mind means that the flow of chitta or mind-energy is condensed, compact and uneven. This unevenness makes for a defensive heart, because an uneven mind will tend to project that imbalance into the world, and the heart will need to shield itself from the assumption that the world is a difficult and imbalanced place.

Sitting with a straight spine, begin to bring the breath into the heart center. At the same time relax the crown of the head and bring attention to the sacrum at the base of the spine. Let the sacrum become the support for the body, let the head lift with incoming energy from the crown, and let the heart relax between the two with the breath.

After you feel you have stabilized your energy body awareness, then begin to bring all the people you have significant interaction with into the your mind. As you review each being, begin to cultivate a view, or point of view, that sees them as a member of your extended family. You can place them as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles etc.

For instance there may be a particularly quarrelsome person in your life. You may not feel comfortable placing them as an immediate member of your family, but you may be able to see them as an uncle, or a nephew, or cousin. You are not asked to diminish the difficulties they present in your life, but you are being asked to consider placing them in your circle of relations.

If you have a particularly difficult family of origin and do not feel comfortable inviting beings into your circle as your family that you have known, then you are invited to consider what an ideal family might look like and place them in the idealized family.

The point of the exercise is to assist the mind in recognizing its innate sense of connectivity. This recognition can help release the powerful imprints of family structure that are encoded in our minds and bodies that may be problematic.

A sustained practice of considering all beings as family is an invaluable tool for helping to create a group crucible of emotional safety. For if you realize that your own sense of wellbeing is arising out of the quality of each and every relationship in the group, then a quality of heartfelt caring can emerge, even in the face of the most difficult of personalities.

Perception and the Arising of Wisdom

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All my becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me, to meet and be met.

- Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours
(translated by Johanna Macy Anita Barrows)

There is an aphorism from the yoga sutras of Patanjali, which states that when the perceiver and the perceived have fused, a state of consciousness emerges in which content of the perceived becomes directly known. The fact that our consciousness might in some way participate in the ongoing flow of the “external” world is a radical departure from our western point of view.

And yet as we explore how we see, we begin to experience some of this process in action. A group provides a dynamic field in which the nature of perception can be explored in depth.

Dual Vision Practice

What is nearly universally true in all groups is that the individuals present are scanning the rest of the group members on a continual basis. This scanning, left to a reactivity pattern in limbic center, usually consists of noticing the ways in which those in the group exhibit behavior that is out of alignment.

Lack of full alignment with the essential self is the embodied condition of nearly all beings, so there is always ample material to work with. The true test of a more mature emotional field is whether you can hold the lack of alignment that is present within a gaze that also perceives the essential connection of each individual.

The essential connection of each being is a vibratory field of subtle qualities. In order to perceive the subtlety of this connection, one needs to recognize these states within oneself. Since these high frequency fields are passing through our structure on a continuous basis, it is really a matter of recognizing what is already present. The surface distractions of the mind and body keep this recognition from bearing fruit. The first leg of this practice is to rest in the abiding presence of one’s own connection. The portals for this connection are the crown and the heart and the belly, with a secondary grounding line, which includes the sacrum.

If you place your conscious attention on any of these connecting points and use the breath to stabilize your awareness, at some point you will begin to feel an increase in the current flowing through your being. Do not attempt the second part of this exercise until you have found this current, as an internal experience.

Once one’s own internal connection has been established, then practice looking at another being until you can see/feel/intuit/ their own line of connection their essential core. This is a mode of perception that means not focusing on the body form, or the personality’s presentation, but on the being before you as a vibratory field of energy. Once you begin to sense the being as this vibratory quality, then allow yourself to perceive the ways in which the being is not in complete alignment with their essential connection. If you can hold a dual vision as you do this, you will begin to sense the connecting bridge between their behavior and their essential vibration. All relative behavior arises out of desire at a core level to return to a state of full connection. Relative distortions have embedded in their expression an intrinsic core of balance trying to manifest.

For instance, one may perceive a being as having high control needs, and not being willing to let go and flow with experiences. From a relative position this may register as being judgmental, rigid and impatient. But if you can generate a dual perception of essence and relative condition, then what was being perceived as controlling may actually appear as a high internal sense of what is possible. The controlling mechanism arises out of a deep internal integrity that is being constantly frustrated by the lack of relative expression in the world. Once this connection is seen, it is far easier to develop compassion for the individual, and just as importantly, the seeing of the bridge actually helps the individual manifest more internal connection.

We grossly underestimate the power of our perception. By cultivating dual vision we help restore the world to its optimum functioning simply by the way we hold our regard. Because this mode of seeing is a higher vibrational condition, the communication of this state helps heal the split between essence and form as an act of perception alone.

The capacity to generate a quality of vision, which holds all relative behavior within the compassionate light of each form returning to their essence, is probably the most significant group skill that can be developed

“The state of grace is the speech that rises in the heart of silence.” - Ramana Maharshi

Speech and Wisdom

The spoken word exerts considerable power in any group gathering. The language that is used, the intonation of its delivery and the congruence (or lack of) between words and energetic states, all contribute to the context in which wisdom is explored.

Much of what is shared in group context is in the form of story. The stories that are told are often an attempt on the individual’s part to organize and recapitulate their life experience. Groups provide a context in which such recapitulation can take place. To some extent this can be therapeutic, and it also can become problematic, if the group capacity for attention is drained by excessive personal storytelling.

A very important strength in any group use of language is for the language to come into congruence with immediate experience. This exercise is designed to help create this bridge. Speech is encoded in the brain in a variety of ways, dependent on our sex, genetics and conditioning. The ability to link speech to multiple anchors of sensory experience and higher imaginative capacities is an important foundation for liberating the power of language to ground wisdom.

Naming the Obvious

From a centered state of relaxation in the body/mind, begin to notice what your internal dialogue is creating. What are the language formations that you are using to name and solidify your experience? (Formations are a combination of the words themselves, the repetitious way in which they are used, the inflection of the internal dialogue and the directionality in which they move. Directionality is anchored in time. Does the self referencing language anchor to the past, does it live in the present, or is it coached in anticipation of the future? For instance we often stabilize our discomforts with tag lines of language. These language formations often are introjects of attitudes, admonitions and considerations of those who formed our familial holding pattern.)

Once you have identified your habitual internal language pattern, see if you can find a new language to describe the internal milieu of your experience. (For instance if your self-talk goes something like, “I am feeling out of place in this group,” you might try renaming your experience. The former phrase might become, “In the sanctuary of my self I feel solitary and different from others.”) An accurate naming of internal experience is a particularly powerful tool in liberating the veils of conditioned response. The self-referencing, looping, word formations can be the organizing matrix within which objective experience is bent to the will of the conditioned expectations of reality.

Because this process can be difficult to unseat from within oneself, utilizing a partner can also be helpful.

The use of a partner would be as follows:

Sitting facing one another, one participant is designated active, the other the receiving. The active partner is going to begin naming his or her internal experience. The receiving partner is going to try and register, though awareness of his or her own energy body, when he or she feel the words are in alignment with the energetic of the other person and when they feel out of congruence.

The receiving person needs to monitor his or her subtle energy body with a floating awareness of what is being registered. When the language of the active participant is not in alignment with his or her internal experience, there will be some kind of tension forming in the energetic body. This tension can be tracked by the receiving person and then reported.

This capacity to rename internal experiences in more present time language spills over in group dynamics. The more powerfully present we can name what is actually happening, the less reliance on stories from the past, the more the energy of the group can rise.

One of the biggest energy sinks in terms of group dynamics occurs when individuals begin to speak with a large gap between their language and their experiences. The lack of congruity tends to create a strong dissonance in the group field and it means that those who are listening have to exert more energy to close the gap, or go into withdrawal to protect themselves from the effort.

By building congruence between language and experience the quality of presence that any group can manifest will increase. As the language begins to report directly the experience, then the communication of wisdom through verbal grounding, an essential part of our human condition, is more easily achieved.

Use of Aligned Language as a Seed Structure of Inspiration

The reading of sacred texts has been, through the ages, one of the primary practices of wisdom seekers. When language arises out of the direct perception of intrinsic connection, then this language tends to help awaken these states in others.

Often deep internal states will manifest themselves through language as a form of poetry. The cadence, inflection, imagery and function of the language is then in service of internal wisdom. Used in this manner language has the capacity to create a flow of wisdom in the listener. The imprint of the awakened state lives like a fragrance in the language that is uttered.

The current popularity of Rumi attests to the power of transmission that is given through the structure of language. His poetry spontaneously arose out of a direct mystical perception of inherent connectivity. The cadence and metered rhyme of the original Persian carry great potency. There are groups in the Mid East who will meet and recite the poetry of various Sufi masters as a coalescing practice.

The correct use of inspired literature can be very helpful in constellating a way of understanding and experiencing the world. Because we in the west have an unfortunate legacy of dry sermons and preaching as a form of wisdom transmission, the use of inspirational literature needs to be skillfully administered.

The sourcing of inspirational literature needs to be crafted to the composition of the group. A sensitivity to ancestor lines, particular spiritual traditions and cultural milieu is important.

It is important that there be an alignment between whoever is reading or reciting the material and the material itself. This alignment is best achieved through some form of memorization. The act of memorizing tends to take the material a little deeper into the structure of the mind and body.

It is far better to pick two or three significant pieces and render them well, than to overwhelm the group with too many words.

It is also very helpful to modulate the spoken word with music. Bards, poets, minstrels and wandering dervishes have utilized music and word in combination to great effect. The use of music awakens different centers of the brain and makes the mind/body more receptive to the multivalent content of language.

Used with skill, a few inspirational verbal pieces can help instill a quality of attention and opening through intuition deeper wisdom in a group context.

Examples of potential spoken word content:

From the Essence Gospels

I speak to you.
Be still and know that I am God (Allaha in aramaic)

I spoke to you
When you were born.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I spoke to you
At your first sight.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I spoke to you
At your first word.

Be still and know that I am Allaha
I spoke to you
At your first thought.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I spoke to you
At your first love.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I spoke to you
At your first song.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the grass of the meadows.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the trees of the forests.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the valleys and the hills.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the Holy Mountains.
Be still and know that I am Allaha.

I speak to you
Through the rain and the snow.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the waves of the sea.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the dew of the morning.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the peace of the evening.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the splendor of the sun.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the brilliant stars.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the storm and the clouds.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the thunder and lightning.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you
Through the mysterious rainbow.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I will speak to you
When you are alone.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I will speak to you
Through the Wisdom of the Ancients.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I will speak to you
At the end of time.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I will speak to you
When you have seen my Angels.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I will speak to you
Throughout Eternity.
Be still and know that I am Allaha

I speak to you.
Be still and know that I am Allaha.

Two Poems from Rilke

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All my becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me, to meet and be met

- Rilke

All who seek you
test you.
And those who find you
bind you to image and gesture.

I would rather sense you
as the earth senses you.
In my ripening
what you are.

I need from you no tricks
to prove you exist.
Time, I know,
is other than you.

No miracles, please.
Just let your laws
become clear
from generation to generation.

- Rilke’s Book of Hours
(translated by Johanna Macy Anita Barrows)

Shadow Work

By virtue of incompletion of cycles of action shadows exist. All forms (bodies, states of consciousness, and group dynamics to name a few) are sustained by cyclic processes. This is true of planetary systems and the beating of the human heart. Each individual brings to each moment of conscious action a summation of forms complete and incomplete within their conditioned stream of response.

Generation of shadow material is most easily grasped in terms of psychological wounding that accompanies early trauma. When the input from the environment overwhelms the capacity of the individual to metabolize the experience, then the trauma remains an imprint on the mind/body. The issue of metabolization is critical to the creation, or lack of creation, of shadow material.

Two people, in the same traumatic situation, (such as battlefield stress) can manifest remarkably different response to trauma. One may, by holding the experience in the construct of a higher calling, actually strengthen their form through conflict. (General Patton in World War II would be an example of this.) Whereas another, with a different personality construct and ideation, may internalize battlefield trauma as an ongoing wound, which can have a devastating effect for the rest of their life.

The frame in which experience is held can contribute to the capacity to metabolize trauma, and in so doing can help remove the darkness known as shadows. In a remarkable commentary on the shadow of improper framing, it is estimated that there have been more deaths by suicide of Vietnam veterans than death in actual battle. If you compare this same process to World War II, there is a much different outcome. In World War II, the values that held the frame in which individual actions occurred were more clearly defined and appeared to have activated a deeper soul alignment in many who were fighting. Because the moral justification for the Vietnam War was dubious at best, the frame in which actions took place created a dissonance that interrupted the ability of individuals caught in the sway of events to metabolize their experience. The shadow of incorrect policy and response was then internalized in the individuals as an inability to complete the experiences of which they were a part.

Any human being who is not fully awakened to a state of arising wisdom will necessarily carry unconscious shadow material. Any group of human beings will also necessarily carry a potential for collective shadow by virtue of the conditioned forces present within the field of consciousness. Shadow material will, by the vector of its momentum, seek to constellate its presence. In a group setting this can manifest in a variety of forms. The appearance of shadow material is always an indication of an incompletion at some level of the conditioning.

Primary arenas for group shadows often constellate around power, sexual energy, control issues and defense of heart space. Power dynamics tend to fixate on inclusion and exclusion. Various hierarchies can appear within the group field, which can often polarize into an us versus them theme structure. Sexual energy can materialize in a form of seduction, which erodes the higher frequency content of any group gathering. Control manifests under the guise of struggle for attention and control of the group flow. The heart, defending itself through shadow material, cloaks perceptions in judgment, criticism and withdrawal. The root of such perceptions is most often grounded in an incomplete cycle of experience in the feeling/emotional realm.

A word about attending to shadow material is in order. There has been a proliferation of investigation into the content of the mind and its effect on behavior in the last century. As various mind and body investigations have been undertaken it has become clear that the repository of experience is kept as a complex storage of memories within each individual. These memories have proven through extensive research to be both biological and transpersonal in nature. What we call the shadow lives in the matrix of these memories. By activating shadow material these memory streams are brought to the surface. The sheer complexity and convolutions of these material, or process, can become captivating, forming a kind of entrancement that in the end only serves to recapitulate the very structures that are trying to be released.

As group field is very responsive to suggestion, and when a large amount of shadow material emerges, the group can tend to amplify the content of such material, infusing it with the attention stream of the group itself. This can create a secondary inflation of shadow, which can actually be counterproductive to the release of the material.

There is an aphorism from Yogic philosophy which states that the mind becomes that which it dwells upon. This is an important concept to work with when engaging shadow material. A balance needs to be struck between awareness of material and the correct placement of the mind on capacities and qualities which are unitive and raise the frequency of the practitioner.

Exercise: Individual Shadow Inventory

The more self awareness that is present about the nature of one’s personal shadow, the less likely that this shadow is going to manifest in the group dynamics. The dilemma in exploring one’s personal shadow is that the material tends to be unconscious and often well protected as a way of insulating the disowned portions of the personality from the core. One’s shadow, however, casts a long trail through one’s life events. This exercise is designed to help illuminate the shadow from the nature of one’s life path.

Begin the exercise by focusing gently on the breath for five to ten cycles of breathing. As you breathe notice where the tension lives in the breath cycle. Is it more at the top of the breath? The middle? Or at the bottom of the breath? Make note of where the tension lives, because at the end of the exercise you will be asked to return to your breath cycle to verify if indeed you have touched shadow material.

After focusing on the breath, turn your attention on the last year of your life. Note where the areas of discomfort have appeared. This could be in relationships, it could be around survival of issues of money and security, it could be more existential in nature such as one’s felt sense of connection to a larger field of existence.

Once an area, or several areas have been identified, then go back in your memory and see if you can find an early example of the discomfort. How have such patterns appeared in the unfolding of your life? If you have trouble bringing early memories to the surface, then work with grounding your awareness more completely into your body.

It is important in this exercise to simply uncover the discomfort. Resist the tendency to attach a storyline or explanation of the discomfort. Because shadow material is often highly defended by the surface self, such explanations can serve to reinforce the unconsciousness. It is enough to merely note and become aware of the degree of the discomfort, in terms of life pattern and body sensation.

Having identified the material, then return to the breath cycle. Now see if you can locate the feeling tone of discomfort within the breath cycle. All substantial unconscious content will interfere with the breath in one way or another. Because of this the breath becomes a template of the mind. And in fact the flow of energy through the breath tends to stabilize the mental state.

Once you have found the tension in the breath that reflects the tension in your exterior life, then begin to expand the breath through the tension area by increasing the awareness in which the breath is being held. You can visualize a magnetic envelope of light that helps to open and sustain the breath. This magnetic envelope is a quality of pure attention or awareness.

By relaxing the breath through the tension zone, the unconscious pattern of the mind is slowly released. This may bring cognitive awareness and information, or it may simply be a somatic release of energy.

Take time with the breath to tend the tension portion of the motion of air in and out of the body. When it feels as if the breath has been released as much as you are able, then return to the cognitive portion of this inventory.

From the vantage point of released breath revisit the content of the difficulty in your life. Consider this difficulty from the perspective of shadows living in zones of incompletion. What impulse, action or quality appears to want completion within you? Can the tension of the incompletion be released through an inward act of relaxation or does some exterior action or activity need to be undertaken to bring closure to an impulse?

A final part of this exercise is to look forward into whatever group you might be part of and see if you can anticipate how your own content might project into the group shadow. Are you likely to succumb to power dynamics, seduction, mental confusion?

By anticipating the path of your projection you can help to withdraw your contribution to the shadowed content.

Resistant Shadows

Another form of shadow material appears as a resistance to change. This form of shadow material occurs through an over-identification with a completed cycle of process. As opposed to the earlier example, the form of this shadow material lies in an inability to let go of existing forms. At the root of this dynamic is a fear of annihilation on the ego’s part.

This resistance to change can turn quite easily, unfortunately, into active aggression and even violence. The emergence of fascism in its various guises throughout the ages is a testimony to this process. The root of such violence often lies in incomplete bonding cycles within individuals. As an adult, someone who has not matured their bonding capacity correctly will either become a free agent, with no bonds anywhere, or the opposite, will overly attach to a group, idea, or perception as a way of giving fixity to the psychic matrix.

This process of over-identification can be a major problem in a group field. Because the investment in the surface construct, such as an idea, a belief, or a cause, is being fueled by the need to create stability in an unstable and poorly bonding substrate, the tenacity of defense that arises around such issues can be strong and potentially very divisive.

Working with this activated and strongly cathected defensive structure can be quire difficult. Ideally this is done within the individual themselves, but what is unfortunately often the case is that the individual is too heavily defended to realize his or her own attachment. Because of this, the following practice is divided into two sections —one is a practice undertaken within one’s own consciousness, and the second is a practice on how to be with someone who is unable to realize the depth of their own fixation.

First Practice

This practice is best done with a partner. The combination of two attention streams can be most helpful in unlocking the content present. The witnessing partner should stay open to impressions, sensations, or even mental content which he or she feels is being generated by the active participant.

The fierceness of this form of attachment is often registered in the body/mind as a kind of intensity of muscular contraction. (The goose-stepping Nazi stormtroopers is a powerful twentieth century image of this process).

The first stage of this process is to consciously contract with as much intensity as possible various muscle groups within the body (legs, abdomen, chest, arms, neck, facial muscles). Notice how quickly the contractions relax, and notice where in the body the contractions take more time to relax.

Return to the areas in which the contractions took longer to relax. Consciously tense them and hold them until a feeling tone, or mental construct emerges. Identify the feeling or the mental construct which appears, and then relax the muscle group.

In a state of slow gentle breathing, consider the content that has emerged and see if you can identify how you might be attached to a particular belief system or point of view.

Share with your partner your experience. The witnessing partner should then share back with you any additional insight or experience they had around such identified holding.

Second Practice: Working with Unconscious Over-Identification of Others

Some individuals in groups simply will not release the defensiveness around their core wounds. It then becomes necessary to navigate skillfully to provide a context in which such holding can be honored.

The more fiercely defended a point of view becomes, the more rigid and brittle the defense system is that surrounds such defense. Working with individuals who are deeply entrenched in their belief system as a form of defense against interior wounding is a process that calls for the most skillful of means.

It takes a measure of strength and compassion to navigate the terrain of such personalities, which is the most important skill that we can summon as individuals.

This practice is designed to strengthen a sense of one’s own core, so that when deep resistance is experienced in the field, it can be met with a minimum of non-reactivity.

Take a few breaths to center your attention on the central column of the spine and your head. After having stabilized this awareness, then begin to sweep your attention down the spine noticing the nerve fibers emanating from the spinal column. At the juncture of each of the vertebrae you are going to sweep any density and tension away. Focus on the correct balance between the incoming nerve sensation from the sensory system and the outgoing impulse of action in the nerves. Sweep up and down the spine with your attention until it feels as balanced as possible.

Then slowly bring your attention back out into the room and register the impact of your sensory experience on your spinal structure and brain. If you feel a recoil or contraction, it means that you are receiving more than you are generating. Go back into the spine and sweep again, bringing balance between the two functions of incoming and outgoing signals.

The more balance you can achieve in the exercise, the easier it will be to stay neutral in the presence of resistant shadow material in others.


“If I am aware of the nature of my reactions, and movement of my reactions,
naturally that awareness will result in freedom from the reaction.

I cannot stop the reaction, because the reactions have been rooted in the subconscious, in the unconscious.
I cannot prevent, I cannot renounce, I cannot check them.

But if I am aware, simultaneously of the objective challenge,
the subjective reactions and the causes of those reactions, then it results in freedom.

Then the momentum of reaction will not carry me over with it, but I will be ahead of the reactions;
I will not be a victim of my reaction, but I will see them as I see the objective challenge.

That for me is meditation. All-inclusive attention while moving in life.
Meditation does not involve any mental activity at all.”

-Vimala Thakar

Any significant investigation of group wisdom needs to grounded in some form of meditative practice by the participants in the group. The nature of the body/mind is such that without a discipline of meditative inquiry the capacity to monitor and track subtle changes in one’s own system and the group field will not be finely tuned.

What is meditation? The classical yogic description of meditation is a state of continuous flow of attention towards an object. The ability to focus the mind and maintain a continuous state of concentration creates in the body/mind a conditioning that allows for the ability to register and experience subtle experiences. Meditation changes the nature of the perceiver. As meditation deepens, the various veils of conditioned patterning begin to thin, and it becomes easier to establish an abiding sense of intrinsic connection.

Wisdom arises in a field of connection, and it is often the capacity to sense and tune to the subtleties of what are present that allows the experience of wisdom to ripen and mature.

Meditation is more than a mental process. Meditation involves an activation of the subtle current of being which sustains each individual. This current has a descending and ascending component to its manifestation. The descending current manifests as a tangible sense of energy moving from above the top of the head downwards. When this current is activated a quality of noetic knowing arises. Wisdom manifests as an internal state of energtic connection.

The ascending current moves from the base of the spine upwards and is known in yogic terminology as the Kundalini. A fully awakened kundalini carries a tremendous force and creates unmistakable interior experience in its wake. The process of a kundalini awakening is complex and beyond the scope of these introductory exercises, but an awareness of the capacity of the human system to entrain ascending currents is important. It has been my experience that in any given group there are indivduals who have either had some form of a kundalini rising, or have a propensity for the ascending current.

The goal of meditation is the activation of the subtle energy bodies so that the inherent evolutionary potential within the individual can mature. This maturation leads to the capacity for deep wisdom entrainment. The hallmarks of this activation carry traditional markers: feelings of deep tranquility, blissful states, currents of energy flowing, noetic experiences, visions, auditory experiences of energy states, and access to internal guidance that is state specific and accurate.

Because meditative states entrain the body/mind, the potential for a group field to stabilize such entrainment is quite strong. In effect the group becomes a large body. When deep levels of group entrainment occur, then the subtle states of energetic movement, which are the hallmark of deep meditative states, become palpable in the room.

Meditation is actually an exploration of the subtle structures out of which our manifest world appears. This is probably the most profound journey any of us can take as human beings. A profound humility in the face of such a journey is essential. This coupled with a quality of alert non- judgmental inquiry creates the condition in which wisdom becomes a consort of our experience.

Meditation Practices: Basic Concentration Exercise

Sitting with an erect spine, bring your attention to your breath.

Begin to track the movement of the breath in its complete cycle.

The goal of this exercise is to be able to keep the mind stabilized on the breath from the moment of the inbreath to its full exhalation.

What you will probably notice is that this is much more difficult than it sounds at first. If you are alert you will notice that the mind very quickly moves its attention from the breath.

When this happens simply bring the mind back to the breath.

As you explore the breath you will also begin to notice that there are gaps, or jumps in the breath. Instead of a continuous deep flow of breath you may find that there are a series of small, or large, contractions. These erratic breath movements are usually indicators of deeply held unconscious memories and experiences. These deep structures of energy interrupt the flow of the breath and the mind.

By continuously bringing the mind back to the breath two fundamental processes begin to occur. One is the stabilization of the mind’s capacity to attend. The other is that latent patterns of instability in the body/mind are slowly and gently released, creating a more stable platform for practice.

This practice is deceptive in its simplicity. Of all the meditative techniques available this practice has the potential of creating the most lasting and enduring capacity to enter into deeper meditative states.

Moving Off of Objects Meditation

Sitting erect begin to quiet by attending to the breath.

With your eyes open register the sensory experience you are having. Now close your eyes and expand your sensory awareness to include the energetic signature of the physical objects you are seeing. Open your eyes and notice the shift in awareness that takes place. Try this several times.

Allow your awareness to register you body sensations.

Now move your awareness from the body to the space around the body. Notice what you can feel and experience.

Place your attention now on your thought process. Notice the thoughts that are arising.

Now move your attention to the field that is holding the thoughts, the medium in which they occur. Notice what you register and experience.

Return to a steady concentration on your breath.

Awareness of Awareness Practice

Sitting with an erect spine, gently brings your attention to the heart center. This movement can sometimes be aided by a sense of looking outwards from the heart, as if one was witnessing the world from the heart instead of the head.

After stabilizing ones attention here, then begin the following inquiry.

There are body sensations, and emotional processes, thoughts, moods and other content of the body mind. Notice these, but then relax back into the witness of these processes. Discover the watcher that is tracking the various sensations.

This can only really be done by a sense of internal surrender. Relax into the witness self, the awareness of what you are aware of.

Allow your sense of self to expand into the field that is holding who you are.

“The coarse of the gross aspect of the unimpeded dynamic manifestation of mind is conscious experience, which does not depart from emptiness and luminosity, but is the experience of, for example, seeing and recognizing form as form, hearing and recognizing sound as sound, and so forth. This is the ability of mind to experience the phenomenal world, to make distinctions, to make value judgments based upon that discrimination.

“We may utilize a metaphor here. The Emptiness of mind is the ocean; the luminosity of mind is the sunlit ocean; and the unimpeded dynamic quality of mind is the waves of the sunlit ocean. When we take the waves of the sunlit ocean as an event or situation, it is not as though we are trying to separate ocean from waves from sunlight; they are three aspects of a single experience. The unity of these three aspects forms the seed or potential for enlightenment. They are the pure nature of mind; the impurity of obscurations, ignorance and confusion overlays what is inherently the nature of mind itself.

“ There is second level of ignorance that we might distinguish which is termed labeling ignorance; it is a more conventional or relative ignorance. Not only do we lack direct experience of the essential emptiness of mind, for example, but we substitute the self or ego for that experience. The individual mind as something ultimately real is a distortion that has taken place, due to a lack of direct experience, and this is an example of labeling or relative ignorance. Likewise, due to a lack of direct experience of the clarity and luminosity of mind, there is a projection of something other than the mind, an object other than the subject. This is again a relative level of ignorance. Rather than being a simple lack of direct experience, there has been a distortion into some thing.”

-Kalu Rinpoche

The Use of Sound to Generate Group Wisdom

"The mystery of sound is mysticism; the harmony of life is religion. The knowledge of vibrations is metaphysics, the analysis of atoms is science, and their harmonious grouping is art. The rhythm of form is poetry, and the rhythm of sound is music. This shows that music is the art of arts and the science of all sciences; and it contains the fountain of all knowledge within itself."

“What is wonderful about music is that it helps us to concentrate or meditate independently of thought—and therefore music seems to be the bridge over the gulf between form and the formless. If there is anything intelligent, effective and at the same time formless, it is music. Poetry suggests form, line and colour suggest form, but music suggests no form. It creates also that resonance which vibrates through the whole being, lifting the thought above the denseness of matter; it almost turns matter into spirit, into its original condition, through the harmony of vibrations touching every atom of one's whole being.”

-Hazrat Inayat Khan

Of all the practices that a group can undertake together the use of sound is probably the most powerful for quieting the surface mind and creating patterns of intrinsic connection.

Humanity has been using group sound for thousands of years to awaken higher states of awareness and for harmonizing body mind and spirit. Small groups of humans in a variety of locations throughout the planet have chanted, sung, drummed and toned in order to achieve inner wisdom.

There is a science to the integration of sound practices into the body/mind, which was brought to high level of advancement by various spiritual practitioners throughout the ages. From both a Yogic and kabbalistic perspective the actual structure of the human body itself is nothing but a condensation of sound forms. In fact, the entire resonant cosmos is more of a song than a thought.

Within the Christian tradition the singing of liturgical music has provided a nourishment stream of unparalleled potency throughout the ages. From Gregorian chant to simple protestant hymns, the use of sound and music as a form of group entrainment has been substantial and of long duration.

In the Shamanic realm particularized songs and chants have been critical to the capacity of the shaman to navigate various planes of reality and draw forth intrinsic wisdom for the benefit of the people. The correct chant and rhythm was considered essential to the restoration of fundamental connection.

The science of sound is quite deep, but for the practical purposes of our exploration of collective wisdom a few fundamentals are useful for establishing the milieu for correct practice:

1) Sound organizes matter.

Various schools of exploration have explored this basic principle. The work of Hans Jenny, a Swiss doctor and student of Rudolph Steiner, has explicitly demonstrated the truth of this dictum.

Sound provides the subtle architecture around which form condenses. In Hans Jenny’s work you can see the literal modification of matter by the organizing form of sound. (for a moving image of this process go to:

This principle is being taken into the heart of universal formation by the exploration currently being undertaken around string theory in physics. String theory postulates the whole of the material universe as arising from vibrating proto-forms, out of which quantum fluctuation and atomic structure emerges.

When we use particular sounds in a repetitive structure, then the very matter of our body is being re-patterned into more harmonious structures.

"There is a similarity between cymatic pictures and quantum particles. In both cases that which appears to be a solid form is also a wave. They are both created and simultaneously organized by the principle of pulse (the principle of vibration). This is the great mystery with sound: there is no solidity! A form that appears solid is actually created by an underlying vibration."


“The more one studies these things, the more one realizes that sound is the creative principle. It must be regarded as primordial. No single phenomenal category can be claimed as the aboriginal principle. We cannot say, in the beginning was the number, or in the beginning was symmetry, etc. These are categorical properties which are implicit in what brings forth and what is brought forth. By using them in description we approach the heart of the matter. They are not themselves creative power. This power is inherent in tone, in sound.”

-Hans Jenny (from his book Cynmatics, volume 2)

2) Vowels map the temple of the human mouth and open attention outwards into more subtle phenomenon.

The Mormon tabernacle, whose acoustics are such that you can hear a pin drop anywhere in the structure, was designed from a mold of Brigham Young’s upper palate. The human mouth cavity has a capacity to generate sound forms that can directly affect brain wave function, endocrine balance and subtle wave forms through cerebrospinal spinal fluid as well as a host of other physiological processes.

If you take the traditional vowels A, E, I, O, U and pronounce them clearly as a tone, you will note that the A starts at the front of the mouth and the rest of the vowels move across the upper curve of the mouth until U ends up deep in the throat.

The hard palate is also the base of the brain. Of particular importance is the fact that the sphenoid bone cradles the pituitary gland. The sphenoid provides the architecture, to a great degree, of the hard palate. So when the upper palate is vibrated, the vibrations are being communicated directly into the base of the brain and the pituitary gland. This transmission of physical vibration can help to increase the psycho-physical functioning of the pituitary gland, which has important implications for the generation of increased vibration in the subtle body.

Vowel sounds tend to open and expand one’s vibration and attention, whereas consonants close and particularize sound vibration. Sanskrit and Hebrew, two of the languages in which the science of sound has been most explicitly explored, are rich in vowel sounds, and particularly extended vowel sounds.

Chants which are rich in vowels sounds are quite useful when a group field needs to be entrained. The chanting of mantras in group settings is one of the primary spiritual practices of all groups who have sought through the ages to awaken a stream of wisdom in their bodies and minds.


Wisdom is a state of being. Knowledge is a function of action put into motion. Where wisdom infuses knowledge, then the mind and body become instruments of truth.

The heart is the pivotal domain in which this marriage of wisdom and knowledge takes place. For wisdom rises as a deeply felt connection with all of life and the heart is the domain through which this connection appears.

Groups provide a vital laboratory of the expression of the human heart. For it is within the intensification of points of view that accompanies any gathering of human beings that the distillation of wisdom can take place. As we learn to care for one another, even in the midst of the difference, deficiencies and personality dilemmas, then a field in which wisdom can become truly known is formed.

Specifically the cultivation of a heart born wisdom necessarily involves a re-training of the conditioned mind and body, which perceives others as other than one self.

This re-training of the mind and body takes self awareness, discipline and an ongoing commitment to examining oneself. This fundamental exploration is not always easy. When we take the expedient way out and turn to criticism, judgment and separation, then groups inevitably will fail to fulfill the promise, so succinctly stated when Christ said, “Where ever two or more are gathered in my name, I am.”

The maturation of group wisdom transcends sectarian religious function, ideology, and even personality function.

The capacities that support the emergence of group wisdom are honesty, self examination, practices to transform the mind-body, spiritual opening, heart engagement, softening of perception and the humility to embrace the tenderness of our human condition.

Gandhi, even in the middle of his persecution by the British, still was able to cultivate compassion for the discomfort and fear of his oppressors. Because of this ability he was able to move even the most intransigent of men.

Experiments in group wisdom are experiments in truth. For in the context of group experience we are consistently refining our capacity to recognize states of compassion and wisdom as they become evident within the group field. Our ability to continually refine our relationship to one other is a gift, privilege and the working ground of our humanity. It is within the field of compassion that we find the emergence of wisdom. For wisdom is the rising up of the fabric of our interconnection, so that it becomes tangible and informs the ethics of our actions.

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