Support and Conversation
Support and Conversation AF-D1
Alpha was never intended to be a place of self-congratulatory, contended people. Rather the ideal we live by insists upon a thorough personal house-cleaning. The whole point is to live our highest values with vigor and dedication. Our way of "changing the world" is to become "valuable" because of those values. As such we are a resource and a stimulant for others who are receptive. This is our mandate, both individually and as a unit.
Humans are social beings, quite influenced usually by the social environment. Therefore our goal is to create a social climate here that is supportive, secure, and conductive to the expression of our highest values. When each individual joins the family they accept a profound commitment to love, protect, and encourage the personal growth of each other; and similarly, to be open ourselves to each other's help in this business of upleveling our lives.
How is this done? Alpha experience offers some guidelines:
First, be honest with yourself about yourself. Nothing can be done for someone who already thinks they are perfect, or who is proud, or who is so insecure as to be threatened by the thought of their own inadequacies. None of us are perfect. The wisest admit it. There need be no shame, just acknowledgment.
Second, the desire to change must be genuine. The strength of one's desire is the measure of one's muscle in this endeavor.
Third, the decision, the choice, to uplevel our expression is necessary. It is ours alone to make. It is the switch at the center of our beings that will make the difference. The goal is worthwhile but sometimes there are tough spots where changes come and the future is unknown. If this part is genuinely a life-priority, then the courage and stamina will be there.
Fourth, love yourself and each other beyond the short-comings that are always present. In this way a foundation is established for personal security, and we can be genuine with each other.
Frequently, at Alpha, support is exchanged without a word. A glance or a hug, or a time of smooth working side by side, or prayer and personal radiance -- these are powerful blessings for us all. Words, however, carry special power, and it is extremely important to pay attention to them and take responsibility for them. In the Bible somewhere it says, "Out of the abundance of the heart, a man speaketh." The tone of a person's conversations is set by the overflow of the heart. Sometimes the quick passing comment is the most telling. We each need to watch ourselves by watching our words.
The one-on-one conversation is our mainstay. Although work is a high priority at Alpha, a supporting talk when the need is great is frequently higher . Sometimes this can involve several people. Here are some guidelines.
* Check on the sense of personal security. Is love reaching beyond the shortcomings? Do you have the well-being of others at heart, or are you caught in a net of your own desires.
* Are you listening? Are you listening beyond the words?
* Are you committed to following through and sticking it out? Never walk away from the situation, either literally or figuratively. Probably you are discovering something about yourself that you would rather avoid.
* If you are having difficulties with "X", pay particular attention to your thoughts and words about them. Talk not motivated by a true desire to come clear with a loving spirit is against our understandings at Alpha, as it quickly becomes gossip or worse. If you think someone can help you clear your heart and mind, then it is acceptable to talk with them about "X".
* Talking directly with an individual is greatly to be preferred. If necessary it may be desirable to have one or two others present -- as observers and aids of the process, never as advocates. Very rarely is an interpersonal matter brought to the attention of third meeting. This should be a last resort, and there is an agreement never to "spring" a personal item about someone without their advance knowledge.
* Occasionally a small, on-going group process is helpful in a given situation. This can offer continuity and follow-through.
* Another possibility in achieving personal clarity is the "clearness committee". Again this is a small, on-going group usually requested by an individual to give reflection in life choices. Clearness committees have special mandates for each participant to arrive at a state of clearness regarding the question at hand before any decision or recommendation is made. If the question concerns something that is to come before the house, there is a great deal of trust accorded to its recommendation in the faith that sound thinking and high leadings have been allowed to come forth.
* Be attentive. Don't interrupt. Avoid repeating yourself. Try to say what you mean so that you are accurately understood. Try to get to the various levels that may exist, right down to the bottom of the matter, which sometimes is a long way down (witness the iceberg!).
* Honor confidences. Much of what you say or hear is quite private, and you must be trustworthy. Generally visitors are not included where confidences are to be kept.
* Be appreciative of what is good in people, and express your support of that.
* Try to make a clear distinction -- both as a listener and as a speaker -- between the person and their action. It is all too easy to take criticism of one's action as criticism of one's being. Ask ( on the part of the person criticizing) "Have I been genuinely and consistently loving, and have I given expression to that?" And on the person taking offense, "Is an improved way of being really my priority, or am I defending myself out of habit?"
Meetings and conversations may easily go on ad nauseum, producing little but confusion, unless the creative spirit is invited in. Sometimes we need to be silent together. Meetings and words are only a tool. They can not successfully be used to manipulate people or situations to produce harmony. It is only the creative spirit, or open heart, or presence of God -- all suggestive phrases to describe something we can each feel -- that allows the healing and building work to be done. This is simply an extension into our everyday lives of the original spirit in which Alpha was conceived, the spirit of "letting go" to the guidance of a creative power beyond our individual selves. Then the magic happens.