The Inner Core
Robert L. Marshall
Chapter 7 — Group Work
Have you ever noticed that great people often come in clusters? Years ago I remember being amazed that different individuals who had a distinct impact upon the era in which they lived knew one another even if their talents lay in completely different areas.
My first conclusion was that famous people tend to meet other famous people because they share a common bond of notoriety. I’m sure that does happen. Yet in so many cases the individuals who have become trailblazers in their respective fields have known one another before they became famous.
With so few people in this world stepping out beyond the norm, doesn’t it seem strange that several within a small circle of friends would make notable contributions in their respective fields? Wouldn’t the law of equilibrium suggest that outstanding achievers be equally distributed among the masses?
My conclusion is that exceptional people do share a common bond. Fame is a by-product, not the cause of that bond. Each shares a deep appreciation for the creative spark that can carry one beyond the horizon. This spark can be channeled into philosophy, literature, science, statesmanship, art, music, or spiritual development. Yet the experience of “plugging in” to a higher energy is much the same. Those who have entered that intense energy state tend to recognize and appreciate it in one another. One need not understand the particular task at which a friend excels in order to grasp, admire, and support the creative process by which it takes place.
Emerson and Thoreau were part of a circle of friends who blew on one another’s creative spark. The founders of the United States of America were men of very different talents and backgrounds; yet by bouncing ideas off one another they created an idea bigger than any one of them.
How many would-be contributors to the progress of humanity have fallen along the way? Going it alone, their creative drive finally succumbed to the disappointments and frustrations of living alone on the frontiers of consciousness. The creative spark lights the tinder only when it is sheltered in loving hands and blown on gently for a time.
In many cases, this is achieved by a few friends cherishing and supporting the fragile forward steps each is making. When one begins to doubt himself or herself, the compatriot declares: “I see it and it’s beautiful. Keep going!” When another is at a loss as to the next step, even a partner ignorant of the territory can brainstorm in a consciousness of incubation and the explorer gets that flash of light.
Thus great men and women have often evolved in groups. Even if the breakthroughs of only one or two were recognized with fame, all were great. The men and women shared consciousness. They blew on the flame. A fire erupted, burned out of control, and changed humanity.
If you are committed to spiritual exploration, establishing group consciousness will be very important to you. There are things a group can do that a single individual cannot. That is why we form marriage relationships, family units, hobby groups, churches, and companies. Gathered consciousness is often required for the big tasks of life. The spiritual trailblazer can benefit greatly from group support even though each path may seem unique.
Creating a group requires real finesse to be successful. It is easier to create a gathering that flies apart or scatters energy than to create one that focuses and empowers its participants.
For success, a group’s purpose must be clearly understood and wisdom used in choosing partners. Structure needs to be established that supports focus and does not have a tendency to become sidetracked. Members must grasp group dynamics and understand the challenges of the laws of consciousness when applied to high-level support groups. In the end, few gatherings have solidified on these higher levels.
This is changing. We are entering an era in which we are beginning to master the art of merging higher consciousness for the benefit of the individual and the whole at the same time.
I first met Fred when I conducted his wedding. My wedding fee was the cheapest in town, and he was looking for a deal. While making arrangements for the wedding, he had requested a certain piece of classical music to be played for the recessional. However, he mischievously suggested, “I want it played well, and I’m the best pianist I know!” We all laughed at the joke. I found it even more amusing when, in the end, he recorded it, and we used the tape in the ceremony.
After the limo took Fred and his bride away, I didn’t see him again for two years. Once contact was reestablished, our relationship evolved over several more years—from interesting acquaintance to respected friend. Ultimately, the bond became that of brothers sharing absolute admiration for the other’s talent and potential.
Fred had creative talents in music that left me in absolute awe. He was an outstanding performer who could conduct feats of magic and absolute beauty in improvisation, composition, lyrics, and music production. He could move people with his music, and I wholeheartedly believed in him.
On the other hand, Fred admired my philosophical and spiritual perceptions; my ability to clarify, articulate, write, and teach; and my ability to touch others’ lives through these mediums. He had absolute confidence in me. Together, we were more excited about the other’s potentials and breakthroughs than our own.
We each had a deep spiritual life and confided our experiences, but more than anything, we shared an understanding of that high-voltage experience of channeling creative flow. One day he described his physical and mental responses when the spirit of composition would take command of him. I knew exactly what he felt. For me, it came during intense hours of writing, preparing a class, designing a program of spiritual activities, or creatively maneuvering people toward facing their problems.
A higher force takes over. Our nine-volt circuits are suddenly conducting a 220-volt flow. It’s a thrill, but it wears on the system. Fred and I discussed adapting to the higher voltage in order to mature our talents. The sharing seemed to encourage that maturation in each of us.
There was no structure to our meetings. We would get together socially to talk, eat, and play. Always, conversation would revert back to our individual creative projects. I’d discuss my current realizations and read my latest written effort. He’d discuss lyrics to his new song and play whatever project he’d been working on in the studio.
With no real knowledge of music, I would praise and then critique his efforts. He would brainstorm with me as if I knew what I was talking about and would draw from our conversation improvements to his work. I would have no idea what I said that had helped to inspire him.
His comments on my latest realizations would add whole new aspects I hadn’t considered. His side remarks and candid advice would focus me on major improvements to the approaches I would take.
He would rarely do what I suggested but gave me credit for the changes he chose to make. I rarely followed the exact approach he presented to me but depended upon him for the inspiration that did evolve. The gift we had for each other was not expertise. It was a high-energy state that we shared when we gathered. We each thrived in the creative, supportive environment our bond was built upon. This was my deepest experience of what a “creativity cell” could be.
The cell was actually a little larger. Fred’s wife Merrilee ended up working closely with both Fred and me on our projects and drove us, unmercifully, toward our dreams. When I finally married, my wife Karrin added a whole new energy of support to the group.
When any of us would get discouraged or lazy about pursuing our dreams, the gathering would inspire us and get us moving again. Merrilee and Karrin discussed with the group where they could express their particular creative drives, beyond just being supportive of Fred’s music or my teaching. Ultimately, every one of us was carried forward by the wave our gathering generated.
A creativity cell is a gathering of a few people (from two to six or eight) whose purpose is to support one another in expressing that higher energy through whatever medium comes most naturally. The members of a cell can share similar talents or have entirely different expertise and aspirations. It works both ways.
A creativity cell based on the desire for spiritual exploration can provide tremendous assistance in gaining and retaining a foothold in the frontier. The individual spiritual projects may be quite different, but sharing is always inspiring. Furthermore, when the group has faith in you, there is more purpose to hanging tough through the discouraging times.
The key to the successful spiritual exploration “creativity cell” is gathering in the correct consciousness. Members are not there to tell one another how to do anything or show how far they’ve come. They are there to believe in one another and to set aside ego, competition, and personal opinion and support one another in their particular projects.
They gather to regain the forward impetus that allows the high-voltage, creative experience to happen. They will share with compatriots sensitive, delicate experiences which could lead to breakthroughs and will know that they will receive only support. Critique is handled as brainstorming, not criticism. Partners on the quest need to be honest, sincere, interested individuals ready to offer honest thoughts. Above all, each members job is to make fellow members aware of their exquisite potential and keep them on the path toward their dreams.
Small prayer groups have become very popular, probably because they have proven to be truly powerful. They employ similar structure and bonding but are aimed at a different mark. I encourage you to participate in a small, personal prayer group, but the explorer needs a “creativity cell” too.
If your prayer partners decide to expand to include exploration-group goals, keep the two functions segmented so that clear purpose can be maintained for both aspects. In a prayer group, the members pray for one another. They don’t discuss or advise. They pray. In a creativity cell, members share, brainstorm, and encourage one another.
The same people can fulfill both functions as long as they understand clearly what each function is. You can pray then break from the prayer time to discuss exploration projects, but not to advise in the prayer request. Another approach would be to conduct the different functions at different times.
The many support groups available in our society are full of advice-giving and emotional dumping. They aim at bonding through sharing gut-level experiences. This is wonderful for those who need this kind of support, but it relies upon a lower-level emotional connection.
A support group for individuals reaching into the spiritual frontier depends upon merging at the highest levels of consciousness. If the group degenerates into an emotional dumping ground, its ability to keep you in touch with the high-voltage energy is lost.
Several years back, Karrin and I gathered with five or six others to explore the use of an advanced technique of intense breathwork that originated with Stanislav and Christina Grof. We hoped to use the technique as a tool for reaching higher spiritual experiences.
The facilitators of this particular breathwork style used music, essences, affirmation, sound in many forms, touch, bodywork, energy work, chakra work, and above all, their own breathing to assist the individual making the journey. They depended upon attuning themselves to the consciousness of the breather. They intuitively trusted a higher guidance to show them exactly how to help the breather break through points of spiritual blockage on the upward climb. The process was quite unusual, and there were few skilled facilitators.
Having had minimal exposure to this technique, we knew that none of us were truly qualified to facilitate such a venture. We determined that we would have to depend upon the merged consciousness of the group to provide the energy and skill each of us lacked individually. We would join in knowing that Spirit was guiding us. If we were one with one another and one with God, it was safe to make the journey.
We gathered, conversed quietly to unite the group energy, and prayed together in preparation. Then one person would lie down and the rest would gather around to facilitate. As a group, we would begin the breathwork and jump off into the unknown. Most sessions lasted an hour and a half to two hours. We met weekly for nine months.
The results were astounding. I had several of my most powerful spiritual experiences with this group. However, there was a price. Uniting in consciousness at this high level required a purification of individual egos in order for the group to merge at the higher level. After all, ego is defined by individual separateness. Group consciousness is accomplished by removing the boundaries and functioning as one.
The first of the challenges to emerge was control. Different facilitators would head in different directions. There is a delicate balance between being true to the inspiration you feel within yourself and allowing for a different inspiration within one of your mates that is just as valid or even more appropriate at the time.
For things to go well, the group had to remain harmoniously balanced with no one person controlling the direction. We discovered that each of us had different talents. If there was confusion as to what to do, we would defer to the one who excelled in that particular area.
Thus we learned to work as a team. But no one’s contribution in any area was considered inferior. Spirit could move through any one of us. There was beauty in the way the group created an experience that was far above anything any one of us individually could have hoped for. It was inspiring to see how high we could go as a group once we mastered the ego-control issues and learned to truly function as one.
On the other hand, there were continual ego-cleansing requirements the farther we went. Issues between husband and wife surfaced. Issues between different individuals erupted. Each time, we dealt with them, released them for the good of the whole, allowed love to replace them, and gained new height.
We encountered ego bruising, the tendency toward criticism or condemnation, the need to elevate oneself to the status of expert, competition, subtle power struggles, the fantasy of being too spiritually evolved for ego problems (better known as denial), unwillingness to open fully to the group, and even jealousy. This sounds like a dreadful list but the expressions of these issues and activities were quite subtle. They could easily have been missed in other groups. They were magnified by the height to which we aspired.
We honestly faced and removed our unexpected warts in order to return our attention to the real purpose for our gathering. Each time we did, we were admitted to a higher level of group consciousness.
After nine months of releasing these subtle adversaries and rising to a new level of love and trust, group consciousness reached an intense level. In these higher realms of bonding, a small ego issue can create havoc. There can be no holding back. One issue arose that we tried to ignore, and the group fell apart.
Ego cleansing for the purpose of merging consciousness is a very small part of the experience an exploration group will encounter, but it cannot be ignored. It is the ticket price for admission to the main attraction. Pretend you are too spiritual for any of these warts and your group will never soar. Face your small ego sacrifices honestly and the power of the group will astound you.
However, there is a balance to be maintained. Concentrate too much on removal of imperfections and you degenerate into an emotional support group. You’ll never gain the heights. Honestly face your shortcomings as they arise, let love replace them, and quickly move on to your main agenda.
Small Exploration Groups
Your main agenda is the intense spiritual work only a small cell of dedicated partners can sustain. Regular contact with these few who share your inner world will push you forward when you need it most.
The power generated in the small cell is almost addictive, but there are other levels of group work that a larger, more diverse gathering provides. Cells need to network with other cells to keep their horizons broadened. Members within a certain intimate group will each have connections with others in different areas or on different levels. In this way, no single group becomes an island. Each cell is connected to other cells through its individual members. Soon the structure looks like a huge honeycomb and there is a subtle strength gained from being part of the larger structure. The small cell that jealously isolates itself from the larger whole loses something important. After all, the flow of spiritual awakening is toward oneness with the whole.
Ego (the need to hold separation) is faced on a new level in the small group. The individual has to give up a degree of isolation to merge in consciousness with this group of a few. The few must give up their natural tendency toward isolating their newfound, high-level intimacy to protect it. Small-group pride and privacy must be sacrificed to participate in merging on a larger scale. Each step brings expanded challenges and expanded rewards.
Spiritual exploration is a large arena. Any group gathered under this banner will span a generous range of ideals, dedication, perspectives, and energy levels.
Larger Exploration Groups
The larger spiritual exploration group will have challenges, without a doubt. Its expanded size makes it harder to sustain a constructive direction and to keep on task. It will severely test love, acceptance, and openness in regard to personal inner experiences. Fear of rejection increases, barriers take longer to fall, and trust takes longer to establish.
Yet the larger gathering embodies an exciting diversity of experience that expands horizons. Once in motion, it carries quite a sense of synergy for the individual to draw upon.
Sometimes it is better to create the larger spiritual exploration group first. Those drawn to the basic idea of exploring the frontier of our higher potential come together and begin to share. Members have a large pool from which to select their intimate circle of partners. Shortly those with similar objectives or energy levels are drawn together. They work together and periodically present their findings to the larger group.
Within the large group, cells may develop for intense, experiential excursions into practicing healing work, developing intuition, experiencing God in the silence, doing dream-work, moving invisible energies, connecting to the Source of all abundance, extending mind capabilities, mastering prayer, reaching out to the angelic kingdom, merging with nature, following divine guidance, and so forth. The real work will take place in the intimate circle of those directed to a particular project. As each cell shares its results, the members of the group at large receive treasures from areas in which they haven’t worked.
I was a part of a gathering of around thirty people who flocked to the ideal of spiritual exploration. From the beginning, we determined that a group this large would have to depend upon structure to keep on the right track. It is too easy for thirty people to pull in thirty different directions and go nowhere. A few can talk everything out as diverging desires arise. Thirty cannot.
The first few meetings were dedicated to outlining a structure that would keep us on course. What were the rules of our encounters? Were there times when we were going to have no rules?
The first topic of structure was whether meetings would be open to newcomers each week or closed to new participants once the group began. The open format provides a constant flow of new energy. It also allows new people not committed to the ideal of spiritual exploration to come watch the show. They could leave and talk of how bizarre the whole thing was. The frontier is often bizarre.
We felt that would inhibit open sharing when new faces joined those of the trusted gathering. Thus we opted for a closed group which periodically opened to new members.
A rule was established that no one could be verbally attacked in regard to what he or she shared. This was to be a safe environment. Debate was discouraged, though members were expected to present differing views, discuss, and question those sharing.
The assembly of “explorers” was quite diversified. In one meeting, Sheryl was describing an experience that shed had for years but had never told anyone about. She described a certain state of consciousness in which she perceived little bits of energy in the air. They seemed almost alive. As she would move through them with thought energy, they would swirl as if physically disturbed by the invisible movement of her thought. Then she asked, “Has anyone else had this experience?”
The responses were mixed. A few conceded they had expeienced similar phenomena though had never thought to describe it in that way. With consternation on their faces, some asked questions to clarify. Finally, Ray spoke up and said, “Am I the only one here who thinks she’s bonkers?” Everyone laughed.
Honest and direct as his response was, there was no breech of trust. We had built a consciousness of loving acceptance in our gatherings. It was not a rejection to say, “I’m sorry; I can’t go that far with you.” After all, others may find out that their experience is imagined or “bonkers.” Alternately, they may discover that they have touched the seeds of something big. In either case, it takes exploration to find out. That’s why we gather.
Unwieldy as it may be, the large-group experience has a lot to offer. It is naive to assume that members will share their work each week as they would in the small cells. The larger gatherings should be designed to accentuate the strength gained from numbers. This gathering might be less frequent than the weekly schedule for the smaller work groups.
The meeting structure might include an opening prayer, followed by a sharing time: “Has anyone had a breakthrough experience to report this week?” The main program would occupy the bulk of the allotted time. The meeting would end with a ritual closing circle.
The main body of the meeting could take many forms. The most obvious would be project presentations by the different cells within the large group. Eventually, the small cells should volunteer to spend a meeting sharing what they have done, what has worked, and what has not. Little successes are exciting to hear about. Techniques or conclusions from a small group could be adapted by other groups or by the large group. One of the main objectives is to share the fruits of everyone’s labor.
Within the group I attended, we had presentations on telepathy, tapping intuition, different aspects of healing, angelic encounters, and awakening the heart center, to name a few. Each presenting cell not only would tell of efforts and results but also would devise practices and meditations that would enable the whole group to get a taste of the experience.
One individual experienced literal prophetic dreaming on a fairly regular basis. She agreed to watch herself closely and keep detailed records of everything that surrounded these events. Though it flowed naturally for her, she analyzed and dissected all the feelings and happenings surrounding these spectacular dreams in preparation for her presentation. Eventually, she shared everything she could and answered a barrage of questions, allowing others to find a foothold toward a similar experience.
A slightly different approach to meeting was “pathsharing” night. One individual would spin the tale of spiritual awakening in his or her life. These evenings were captivating. Each saga proved rich in lessons for everyone. We would return to our own spiritual journey with renewed enthusiasm.
“Topic night” consisted of picking a subject and encouraging members to share any experience they had encountered in the territory. I remember a particularly inspiring evening in which members shared their most dramatic experiences with dreams. We covered the entire span of dreamwork from simple symbolic guidance to lucid dreaming.
However, the most exciting topic night was on Christ encounters: “Share any experience, dramatic or very subtle, in which you realized a higher Self existed inside of you.” This night we went around the circle, one by one. The session took a long time but kept our attention.
Some gatherings should be dedicated to spiritual experience that only a group can create. Declare a “praise” or “gratefulness” evening. The main body of the meeting is designated for concentrating only upon these uplifting qualities for the normal meeting time.
The objective is to verbalize your gratitude around the circle without ceasing for forty-five minutes or an hour. The group may respond and repeat as a whole each statement each individual makes.
By the end, the energies are intense. A time should be taken to silently identify the higher energy state and integrate it into your consciousness. Remind the others to assess the changes this energy level stimulated in their lives after leaving the meeting.
A gathering can be dedicated to chanting for an evening. Even further, one session might be charted for silence. Sit together in silence until the closing prayer. The effect can be riveting.
Within the larger group, ritual plays the role of tying everything together. It doesn’t take much, but a group should be able to depend upon certain regimens to create a regular vehicle for merging consciousness and keeping the meeting on purpose.
You may want to devise your own little ceremonies for opening and closing. One group opened with a prayer led by a different person each time. They then closed by gathering in a circle holding hands. A lighted candle was silently passed from person to person around the circle. As one individual passed it to the next, he or she would look in the other’s eyes and quietly affirm: I behold the Christ in you. This ended every meeting with sacredness. It reminded all why we gather—to support one another by seeing the highest within each one.
Accepting new members can be another repeated ritual. Treat it as a sacred initiation. Recap the original ideals that brought the group together. This draws longtime members back on target while indoctrinating new ones. Devise a simple ceremony that marks the initiation.
Create whatever rituals or ceremonies you like to remind everyone at each meeting of the group’s sacred mission. When used regularly, these short little rituals grow dear to everyone’s heart. They become much-needed anchors.
All expanded groups meet their challenges. Members must be reminded of the necessity for confidentiality in regard to what is shared. Trust can be destroyed by careless words.
On one hand, discipline must be maintained to keep the group from degenerating into a debate or an intellectual discussion group. On the other hand, the group that degenerates into pure “touchy-feely” experience or a subtle competition for the wildest experience of the week is equally off base.
There must be a balance of pure spiritual experience and intellectual analysis in order to create a body of mind-and-heart understanding that can be our legacy to those who follow.
The most destructive pitfall I’ve seen is allowing the group to become a “sampling group” instead of a “spiritual work group.” The group degenerates into sampling when the members get lazy about reporting their practices and results (or lack of them).
Sharing progress implies that each individual is spending serious time on spiritual practices each week. His or her report may be mundane. “I’ve been working with this practice, but I can’t seem to break through.” Or, “I think somethings beginning to happen, but I’m not sure.” This kind of sharing may not seem very exciting, but it is real. Group support can lead this person to a real breakthrough. That’s exciting!
No one expects you to be a spiritual adept overnight. If you begin to sound like one, examine whether your desire for quick results is pushing you into fantasy.
When the members aren’t doing their homework or they are embarrassed to report that they are inching along, the group heads for sampling. They try something new each week and never experience anything at great depth. The meeting becomes entertainment, not the fulfillment of spiritual purpose. Shortly people will be suggesting getting outside speakers to keep the program interesting.
The main objective of believing in one another and pooling experiences is lost. Attendance drops off. Consciousness is scattered. The group disintegrates.
Don’t get me wrong. A sampling meeting has its place and is a lot of fun to attend. It just doesn’t serve the deeply sacred purpose of those aspiring to become part of the spiritual vanguard. Focused intent is the most powerful tool at the group’s disposal. Betray your mystical intent and there is no energy to hold the group together.
Attrition is normal. Not all are as committed to hard spiritual work as they think. Those who drop off strengthen your group consciousness by leaving only those with enduring commitment.
Avoid the pitfalls, grow through the challenges, and your group (whatever its size) will serve you well. Group consciousness is powerful beyond our expectations. Yet it is a relatively unexplored territory. We are only beginning to tap this experience.
In the years ahead, we will develop and refine the art of gathering. This art of merging with one another will open the higher realms to us. We will begin to wield energies and work in realms that no separate being can attain. The possibilities are thrilling. It might even be this frontier of group consciousness itself that you will use your life to explore.
© 2001, Robert L. Marshall
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.