Insight Dialogue: Cultivating Presence in Our Relationships

– written by Rosalie Dores

All real living is meeting…

(Martin Buber, 1958)

I first encountered Insight Dialogue in 2006 and experienced a quickening of my practice. The heightened levels of attunement, sensitivity, empathy and insight, available through the practice, continued beyond the retreat and into my wider life. Engaging with Insight Dialogue in an ongoing way has contributed tremendously to a greater capacity for grounded and steady presence in my teaching, and my relationships in general.

To be is to be in relationship. We exist within a complex web of interconnected relationships. The potential for relational depth and intimacy is equal to the experience of isolation, stress and suffering. At times, our solitary meditation practice can feel like a welcome refuge from the complexity and challenge of our relational lives. At other times we are in solitude, yet in relationship with others, re-hashing conversations, moments of connection and disconnection, in our minds. Relationships are central to our lives whether we are with people or not.

Mindfulness-based interventions are inherently relational. This is true whether we are teaching a group, or within a one-to-one context. The core curriculum elements of each session (e.g., guided meditation practices, enquiry, didactic elements, poetry) are framed within dialogic encounters between teacher-group, and teacher-individual participants. The Mindfulness-based Interventions: Teacher Assessment Criteria, (MBI:TAC) includes Relational skills as an important domain for assessment in determining a teacher’s competency. Qualities such as authenticity and potency, connection and attunement, compassion and warmth are described as desirable characteristics in the person of the mindfulness teacher. In Insight Dialogue practice, we have an opportunity to train, develop and hone these qualities within a meditative relational context.

In Insight Dialogue practice, we extend the potential for calm, concentration and insight – all central to the sphere of silent meditation – into the interpersonal. As in mindfulness-based approaches, we are not adding anything to ourselves, but more drawing forth our latent capacities. We access these capacities through dialogic encounters with others, supported by six meditative guidelines. These guidelines could be described as mechanisms for attuning awareness. We meet in dialogue together. Our sensitive human body-minds ripple with sensation in response to the presence of another. We Pause… We sense and feel, perceiving what is happening, accessing the data output of thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. We allow our fundamental relational sensitivity to become an asset rather than a hindrance. If reactivity, born from habit, arises, we pause and know this. We Relax, receiving the experience, inviting a quality of allowing, that enlarges our capacity to be with experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant. We Open, aware of our experience internally, and externally – the presence of another, the sights, the sounds. We open to both simultaneously – to the relational field. We notice the tendency of the mind, in the face of uncertainty, habitually wanting to control the situation by moving into social conversation or reactivity. We choose to pause, to rest in presence. We wait, Trusting Emergence, that whatever arises, can be met with kindness and interest. We Listen Deeply, with the whole body, and Speak The Truth, from here.

In Insight Dialogue, we consciously cultivate presence in relationships. We learn to rest in awareness, in the midst of contact with another. In this way, we recognise the choices we have about the ways in which we conduct ourselves. We can choose to reduce relational stress and reactivity by consciously responding, rather than habitually reacting. The quality of sensitivity, born from attending mindfully, to moment-to-moment embodied experience, brings into being authentic and potent presence. We abide in not-knowing, in simple contact with ourselves and with the other.

Attending an Insight Dialogue retreat allows for an immersion in the practice of relational mindfulness. The intensity of the retreat experience provides an opportunity to embed skills and ways of being into an embodied knowing. Whether with intimate others, family, friends or colleagues, we can access the guidelines and relate with greater skill when speaking and listening. This is deeply enriching both for ourselves and for our relationships, both personally and professionally.


Phyllis Hicks and I are offering a seven-day Insight Dialogue (ID) retreat at Chateau de Magny en Morvan, France, from 13-19 June 2018.

This retreat combines silent practice with carefully guided Insight Dialogue meditation, Dharma talks, mindful movement, and time in nature, all within the container of silence. This is an opportunity to encounter Insight Dialogue for the first time and also for experienced ID meditators to deepen their practice.

Although the retreat will be conducted in English, there will be French translation throughout.

Château de Magny en Morvan can be accessed by car or on the TGV from Paris or Brussels, and is situated at three hours drive from Paris and two hours from Lyon.

Rosalie is a mindfulness-based retreat leader and supervisor for the Mindfulness Network.

Rosalie’s personal website is at

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