Living in a Spirit of Dialogue

Posted on March 12, 2013


“’Dialogue’ comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means ‘the word’, or in our case we would think of the ‘meaning of the word’. And dia means through… Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself, if the spirit of the dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us.” (David Bohm, On Dialogue)

Contrast this with a sense of discussion or debate.


This is like a game of ping pong where we bat the ball back and forth trying to win; and make “the other” lose.

In dialogue, no one is trying to “win”. That is not the point. In dialogue, if even one person wins, everyone wins.

What is this craving for being right? Is it greed? Is it ego? What is this desire? Why is it that MY voice must be heard… my voice must be right?

If I already know… I can no longer learn.

If I seek to be heard… I cannot hear.

If I seek to be understood… I cannot understand.

In seeking to be loved… I cannot love.

Living life as a discussion, as a debate,

If I win, you must lose.

If I am right, then that makes you wrong.

“What is essential here is the presence of the spirit of dialogue, which is, in short, the ability to hold many points of view in suspension, along with a primary interest in the creation of a common meaning.” (David Bohm)

Living in a Spirit of Dialogue,

I seek first to suspend all assumptions.

I seek first to listen.

I seek first to understand.

Winning is irrelevant.

Understanding is power.

No one knows all.

No one is perfectly right.

And no one is absolutely wrong.

Within all thought is a mixture

Of right and wrong

Of black and white

Of night and day

Of darkness and light.

As soon as I declare my own rightness,

I simultaneously declare “the other” wrong.

I rob myself of a new perspective, a new learning.

I rob “the other” of the dignity and the honor of being an individual.

When I rob “the other” of their difference, there is no freedom.

In order for me to become better than…

I make them lesser than….

We lose equality.

We lose freedom.

We lose the wisdom buried in an alternative and diverse perspective.

We lose the treasure of “the other”.

In a spirit of dialogue, we anticipate “meaning”

coming from anywhere and everywhere.

We look for diversity and embrace it.

We are open and listening,

Living in wait of a new truth.

Buried here.

Scattered there.

Broken and strewn.

Emerging from the most unlikely and unexpected place.

Waiting, watching, listening… in wonder.

Eyes wide open.

Heart wide open.

Mind wide open.

Arms wide open

to embrace the mystery

that emerges from life

as we live it in

a spirit of dialogue.

But does that mean that we become weak?

Does that mean that we have no power?

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Does that mean that we have no opinion, no belief???

Opinion and belief is loud and knowing.

They derail learning and understanding.

In dialogue, we take charge

of our mind, our thoughts, our words.

We simply “suspend” our assumptions

so we can listen for understanding

without the loud banter of rightness

in our heads.

In argument (or debate or discussion), words are reactions

from a heart of noise and chatter.

Dialogue begins with a heart and mind that is at peace.

In dialogue, words emerge out of silence,

a place of stillness and mindfulness…

our center, a place of great depth and power…

a place we so rarely visit…

a power we so rarely access.

In dialogue, life can be a silent, ongoing conversation with all of creation; powerful as a deep river, gentle as dew on a flour.

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather around us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” (William Butler Yeats from Earth, Fire, & Water)

“Stillness is where you meet with the essence of things…In stillness we can begin to let go of external voices, stereotypes, and clichés that crowd out original, personal and internal voices. Those discordant outer voices fade away in stillness. Stillness is a place of rooting oneself in a much larger field of being.”(John Fox, Finding What You Didn’t Lose)

“The Place Where We Are Right”,

by the great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai:

“From the place where we are right

flowers will never grow

in the spring.

The place where we are right

is hard and trampled

like a yard.

But doubts and loves

dig up the world

like a mole, a plough.

And a whisper will be heard in the place

where the ruined

house once stood.”

For more, see Dialogue — a proposal by David Bohm:


“It is possible to have such dialogues in all sorts of circumstances, with many or just a few people involved. Indeed even an individual may have a kind of internal dialogue with himself or herself. What is essential here is the presence of the spirit of dialogue, which is, in short, the ability to hold many points of view in suspension, along with a primary interest in the creation of a common meaning. It is particularly important, however, to explore the possibilities of dialogue in the context of a group that is large enough to have within it a wide range of points of view, and to sustain a strong flow of meaning. This latter can come about because such- a dialogue is capable of having the powerful nonverbal effect of consensus. In the ordinary situation, consensus can lead to collusion and to playing false, but in a true dialogue there is the possibility that a new form of consensual mind, which involves a rich creative order between the individual and the social, may be a more powerful instrument than is the individual mind. Such consensus does not involve the pressure of authority or conformity, for it arises out of a spirit of friendship dedicated to clarity and the ultimate perception of what is true. In this way the tacit infrastructure of society and that of its subcultures are not opposed, nor is there any attempt to alter them or to destroy them. Rather, fixed and rigid frames dissolve in the creative free flow of dialogue as a new kind of microculture emerges.

“People who have taken part in such a dialogue will be able to carry its spirit beyond the particular group into all their activities and relationships and ultimately into the general society. In this way, they can begin to explore the possibility of extending the transformation of the mind that has been discussed earlier to a broader sociocultural context. Such an exploration would clearly be relevant for helping to bring about a creative and harmonious order in the world. It should be clear by now that the major barriers to such an order are not technical; rather they lie in the rigid and fragmentary nature of our basic assumptions. These keep us from changing in response to the actual situations and from being able to move together from commonly shared meanings.”

David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity (New York: Bantam, 1987), pages 240-47.