24 Hour Marathon Group

by Michelle Griffin, Lacuna Therapies, Brisbane

John Gillespie, Co-Founder of New Gestalt Voices, in London, with Bernadette O’Koon in Ohio had been quarantining and against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic they felt inspired to experiment by inviting students and practitioners of gestalt from around the world to join them in a 24 hour marathon group experiment. As the day dawned on a Saturday in Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA the morning was giving way to afternoon in London England, it was siesta time in Greece and the evening was wrapping up in Brisbane, Australia. The marathon group experiment had begun. Gestalt Therapy is known for the inclusion an experiential experience as a way of being able to deep our awareness of self and get close to all parts that make us whole all within a safe environment. This experience was no different, the apex of a gestalt group experience.

My own experience of participating in the marathon zoom was one of unexpected delight. I signed up on a whim, in a moment of feeling confident and brave. I graduated my Master of Gestalt Therapy last year through Gestalt Therapy Brisbane and when I saw the post advertising the New Gestalt Voices’ invite to the marathon zoom I was immediately intrigued. I felt excited to be out in the real gestalt community as a beginner therapist and thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to meet other therapists. On the night, I felt nervous and apprehensive about joining up with strangers from around the world, usually preferring one on one connection or small groups at the very least. And yet, I clicked to join the meeting and it was immediately evident that I had entered territory that was so incredibly familiar and comforting. The apprehension quickly dissolved as I was met with what I now lovingly refer to as the gestalt look. Five faces, all lit up with curiosity for someone new joining the zoom group. The gestalt look to me displays an upturn eyebrow of intrigue and openness, a smile so warm it could thaw an ice cube and the slightest tilt of the head displaying an attentive interest in the person sat before them. The gestalt look draws me in and suddenly I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, ready for the adventure that awaits me.

And it truly was magic, sitting there in my living room hearing others share their inner most thoughts, engaging with concepts familiar to my own life and exploring emotions as they bubble to the surface. I noticed we challenged each other in a kind and gentle manner, each with a knowing that we were safe, amongst like-minded folk. The language maintained a strong connection amongst strangers, words like contact, diversity, experiential  and emergent experience flowed back and forth. Covid-19 was a present theme and everyone shared their experience in their own country and it was fascinating hearing first hand what people on the other side of the world were noticing and experiencing. This deepened my care for each participant as energy reached a crescendo with everyone eagerly sharing then the gentle free-fall into reflective silence as we all sat in silent resonance.

We all felt the magic, and it was magic, simply and deeply. How could it be that several strangers from all different walks of life and far flung corners of the earth be able to come together and drop deeply into conversations that some of us can’t even have with our loved ones and yet here we were experiencing profound connections. It was gestalt, in all its purity, simplicity and complexity.

Some of the participants shared feedback of their time in the zoom marathon. Bernie expressed that she was “moved by the quality and depth of contact that as a group we were able to create, in multiple ways and configurations over only 24 hours”. Gareth found the experiment was an” intriguing, intimate and welcoming event. Its non structured set up allowed for an emergent experience, which turned out to be a fascinating journey of contact. There was laughter, tears, yawns, and some extremely interesting and honest conversations, which really broadened my awareness” and Karolina shared that she “felt moved and connected almost immediately. Such a depth of spontaneity of connection, it was an experience one of a kind”.

Our experience was incredibly positive and we’ve chosen to make a few tweaks to the process and are currently preparing to hold another 24 hour marathon group experiment on 18th-19th July 2020. So please feel welcome to check out the invite on our Facebook page and sign up. We very much look forward to welcoming you.

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