The Original Face Group

    Darren Islar and Calvino Rabeni are hosting an ongoing group that is aligned with PlayAsBeing but open to members of the broader community.   This Second Life group is named Original Face (after a traditional Zen teaching story).  This group is facilitated, though in a minimal style.  Eventually, we might experiment with peer style of participatory leadership by group members.

    A brief description of the group:

    Original Face is a gathering of people who are interested in contemplative and awareness-based practices, to meet, share experiences, and learn from each other.  We take personal experience and our daily life as the field of our practice as well as the focus for our conversations.

    For more information see the page of Questions about the group or contact Darren Islar, Calvino Rabeni, or Bruce Mowbray in Second Life.


    This group is open to anyone who is interested in a contemplative approach to their own life and the life of a group, and would like to go deeper into those areas in the company of others.  This group will appeal to people who:

    • Have interest or experience with personal "practice" of a contemplative nature, whether that be a formal activity or something personal like journal writing or an artistic process.
    • Have some kind of meditation practice and/or feel comfortable relaxing with their experiences.
    • Enjoy "listening" and giving good attention to others.  This is sometimes called Contemplative Dialogue.


    This is not a drop-in topic discussion group, but more like an ongoing retreat.  Continuity (of people and of our inquiries) is desirable, and we want to generate an ongoing flow among the members and to get to know one another. We ask that prospective attendees talk to Liza, Calvino, or another group member to learn what the group is about, and read the web materials. 

    Practice Sessions

    The main meeting format is a Practice Session.  Its purpose is to support members' ongoing practices and to develop an informal "community of practice".

    The heart of the group is "practice" rather than discussion (although we may do some of each).  These are two different perspectives, sometimes called "internal" and "external".  Practice involves working and speaking from the inside, from first hand personal experience.  Discussion is usually working and speaking from the outside, looking at or talking "about" something external.

    In the Practice Session we do not follow or promote a specific philosophy or topical areas.  Its "content" is the lives and experiences of its members.  We do follow a few principles though, which are different from informal conversation and talk / discussion groups.  The most important of these are confidentiality, first-person perspective, and aware listening.  For more detail see the Basic Ideas section.

    The Practice Session includes the following activites, time permitting.

    • Review of the basic principles (confidentiality, first-person perspective, etc.)
    • A short group meditation.
    • A round of "check-in" using a Talking Stick.
    • Presentation of an ongoing "theme", and some rounds of group contemplation or sharing.
    • A group practice of some kind (time permitting)
    • A closing consisting of another short meditation and an informal "dedication".
    • People may hang around and chat informally after group.

    Other Sessions

    We may also hold occasional informal dialogue-style meetings to introduce people to the basic ideas and to promote the group.  This will be a simplified version of the Practice Session, with some explanation and dialogue, but no ongoing commitment.  In addition to informal dialogue and discussion we'll practice some lightweight versions of what we do in the Practice Session.

    If there is interest, we can hold occasional Study Sessions for specific topics. These will be like the dialogue sessions but with more depth.  We may do some outside reading or "homework".

    Basic Ideas

    • Confidentiality. We agree that our conversations are confidential and not to be referred to outside the session.
    • Life as Practice.  We take personal experience and our daily life as the field of our practice as well as the focus for our conversations.
    • Perspective. We speak from a first person perspective (I-perspective and I-language) and encourage the expression of personal feelings and thoughts and direct experience.
    • Awareness.  All knowing and other human capabilities rest in and emerge from consciousness -- the ability to be present, alert, aware, and responsive to what is happening both "inside" and "outside" oneself.
    • Listening. We listen deeply to others, and may have personal responses to what we hear, but don't offer unsolicited advice or analysis.
    • Expression.  It is a great gift to offer others an expression of one's authentic self.  Expressing one's experience can help clarify it and lead to deeper insights.  This is also how we learn from each other. 
    • Authenticity.  People are complex, subtle, and "deep".  Authenticity (or "genuineness") means to behave in a way that rings true" as a whole, and expresses  awareness of the deeper aspects of oneself.
    • Positive Psychology.   Life includes suffering, but also great intelligence, compassion, and ability to thrive.  We are not a "self-help" group, and do not assume that people are broken and in need of "fixing".  We focus on what is true, and on positive potentials, in a spirit of appreciative inquiry. 
    • Peer Inquiry. We are not here to quote and pass on the wisdom of experts, but to learn from each other by engaging in a process of cooperative inquiry. 
    • Community.  A group can support and enhance its members.  We care for the quality of our coming-together.  A group has a style of thinking, like a "mind" of its own, different than the sum of the individuals who are in it.  By exchanging experiences and insights and getting to know and trust others, the group itself gets more "intelligent".

    About "Original Face"

    Many traditions and schools of thought include the idea that there is something deeper, more essential and authentic than the "self" represented by our concepts, habits, and cultural values.  It might be called Real Self, Soul, Atman, Buddha Nature, or even the Unconscious or Superconcious.  We won't try to understand or compare the different doctrines, but simply to "hold open" these classic questions:

    Who am I?
    What am I?

    The name Original Face comes from a Zen koan (contemplation question) The question, translated, is something like this:

    What did your face look like before your parents were born?

    The philosophy of Zen emphasizes meditation and direct experience.  The Zen teacher Dogen put it like this:

    Cease practice based
    On intellectual understanding,
    Pursuing words and
    Following after speech.
    Learn the backward
    Step that turns
    Your light inward
    To illuminate within.
    Body and mind of themselves
    Will drop away
    And your original face will be manifest.

    Such a contemplation question is not a puzzle to be solved analytically, but a reminder to remember to  look beyond fixed concepts.
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