Boulder T-Group

T-group is a present moment authentic relating practice. It is first and foremost a practice, in the way that martial arts, meditation, and yoga are practices. The practice begins with a meditative-like awareness of the present moment in your body: emotions and sensations. Thoughts can be part of the present moment, but rather than articulate and go into the thought or story around the experience, we strive to stay in awareness, as in meditation. Then we add interpersonal interaction and a group field with others striving to do the same thing. As humans, we are naturally very responsive to each other. T-Group is a space to explore our responses to others (primarily feelings and sensations), as they are happening. Interaction is slowed down in service to deeper understanding and awareness of self in the context of a small group. We strive to stay present with ourselves, while we are relating to others in an authentic way. We share our experience, what we notice and open to how our sharing impacts others and the group field. This is the fundamental practice.

The Fundamental Practice

The Fundamental Practice The Fundamental Practice

T-Group is a relational practice. We explore what’s true for us in this moment, how we impact and are impacted by others, and how to reveal ourselves and be vulnerable. It requires 4-8 people who agree to sit together and share their experiences in real time. Each session runs 45 minutes, and after the session each participant has the chance to discuss the experience for one minute. Participants agree to abide by the following guidelines:

  • We agree to speak about feelings, sensations and emotions
  • We try to minimize discussing thoughts, analysis, and “story.”
  • We agree to limit the discussion to what is happening in the present moment—discussing neither past nor future. To do this, we are encouraged to speak in the present tense, such as “I am feeling…” or “What’s alive for me right now is…”
  • We agree to reveal ourselves—our motivations and feelings—before asking other members of the group to reveal themselves.
  • We agree to stay present and available for the impact our truth has on others in the group. (Discovering how we impact others is one of the most insightful parts of the T-Group experience.)
  • We agree not to defend, explain, or lash out, even when something we hear feels hurtful or unfair. Instead, we agree to reveal the feelings, sensations and emotions that underlie the impulse to react—in other words, the impact the other person is having on our experience.
  • We agree to the use of three hand signals as a way to communicate with participants non-verbally without interrupting the flow of conversation:
    • Wiggling fingers: I resonate with what you are saying
    • Closing thumb and fingertips, drawing down hand: You are speaking about something that happened more than 30 seconds ago.
    • Open palm: Reveal your motivations before asking another to reveal theirs

Practice Norms Practice Norms
  • Share impact of what others say.
  • Share “Headlines” to give your emotion some context. A short “headline version” of the background that helps people understand where you are, without getting into story.
  • Be aware of others and your impact. Consider safety. Be experimental, but not reckless.
  • Take risks. Be willing to feel uncomfortable. Reveal.
  • If someone wants something from you, you don’t have to give it. You can share impact of receiving that wanting.
Deepening the Practice Deepening the Practice
  • T-group is not a bitch session. Negative emotions are welcome, but you agree to care about the impact your speaking has on others.
  • Be clear and direct in your desires and requests.
  • The sharing of feelings is more helpful than the sharing of opinions
  • ‘Openness’ and ‘truth’, do not have value. They must be employed in a context of sensitive responsibility for the needs of the other. Otherwise they are simply new one-up weapons. It is devastating to communication for me to take advantage of another’s openness to one-up him/her.
  • Each of the world’s leading expert on our own internal affairs. I cannot know what is going on inside of you unless you tell me.
  • Straight talk demands that I lay my cards on the table before I ask you to. Therefore question-asking may not be helpful, but telling the feeling which prompts the question is helpful.
  • A major communication block is defensiveness which is here defined as my refusal to listen to and accept another’s feelings about me. EXAMPLE: Arguing, explaining, refusal to listen, counterattacking.
  • If I want to confront you I had better do it directly and be available for your response rather than doing it indirectly, in passing.
  • Pay attention to your energy and the energy of the group ... is what I want to share "REALLY ALIVE" right now.
  • Look for the feeling behind the feeling. Watch yourself for projections, judgments, questions, etc. and be curious about a deeper, more vulnerable, feeling underneath them.
  • In T-group, we are invited to expand our awareness to include multiple levels. Interpersonal awareness is like a point, and awareness of self. Interpersonal awareness, like a line – the space between two points. Group field being like a plane – the space between multiple three or more points. These are the basics and plenty for most people to track.
  • Heart Centered - Gets us out of our heads and into our hearts. Helps us learn how to feel, drop attention into our bodies, develop finer ways of parsing our emotions. Tgroup encourages us to embody what is alive, how to be present in the moment.
  • Authentic - Anything that comes up is welcome as long as it is authentic. If you puke something out it better be real and not just to satisfy your own need for attention or adrenaline.
  • Respect the group field – Feel into what is right for the group. Be sensitive to the capacity of others with regard to your uncensored expression. You may want to dump a load of shit on the group but listen to the group energy, is that what’s right in the moment? TGroup is not your personal three ring circus or your energetic toilet. Exercise good judgment and care with the group especially when there are newcomers.
  • Communicative – Everyone is encouraged to communicate freely on their thoughts, ideas and concerns. Everyone is heard and their voice seriously considered.
  • Experimental but NOT reckless. The TGroup magic has arisen from a certain established structure and rules. Change and evolution can happen but with great care. The path of least resistance is to change TGroup into STORY group. Stories past and future are where most of us live and will often be our default desire since relating in the moment is HARD. Let’s incorporate new ideas but keep the practice a good workout that requires some effort and risk.
  • Group Accountability – We are here to push and stretch ourselves. We have to hold each other accountable when we break format or take the easy way out. Like a good workout buddy or teammate, we push each other to try harder. Group accountability is vital.
  • Challenge with a safety net – we are pushed and challenged to see ourselves in a new way, to confront ourselves, to be vulnerable, to be raw and exposed. Yet there is care and compassion from others. Others don’t see a wounded animal and pounce, they have care, they identify with that same raw vulnerability in themselves. They honor and respect people pushing themselves in an authentic way.
  • No one gets fixed – Don’t try to fix others. A lot of people in this practice have training in counseling and helping others in their process. This is valuable work, but T-group is not the place to guide others through their process. Share your own impact of witnessing their process
  • Own it! - Look at yourself, this is about your stuff not someone else’s. T-Group is not a spectator sport. You are not here to judge and project your shit on to others. Sure judgments and projections will come up but it’s your job then to look at the dark and dirty places it comes from within you.
  • Make mistakes!
  • There can be yelling, howling, crying, laughing, wrestling and attraction involved.
Questions to Ask in an Unfulfilling T-Group Questions to Ask in an Unfulfilling T-Group
  • Are we in the present? Are we in the past (more than 30 seconds ago) or the future?
  • Are we speaking from our hearts or are we speaking from our heads? Does it feel heady? Does our discussion seem vague, general or meta?
  • Are we owning our current experience? Do we think something else ‘should’ be happening? Are we blaming someone else for our experience? Do we have a strong judgment of someone else? Are we trying to help or fix someone? Did we show up with certain intents or expectations that are not being met?
  • Are we showing up fully? Are we taking risks? Do we have any withholds? Are we really being vulnerable? Are we pushing an edge?
  • Are we being clear in sharing our desires? Are we asking for what we want?
  • Are we being clear in setting our boundaries? Do we feel safe and supported?
  • Are we respecting the group field? Are showing care and compassion for someone that is new, triggered or at their limits?
  • Are you replacing the ‘we’ in the above questions with ‘you’ and judging someone else in the group?
Turning Around an Unfulfilling T-group Turning Around an Unfulfilling T-group
  • Breathwork – take 2 minutes and synchronize group breath
  • Feelings – popcorn style throw out emotions you are feeling
  • Risks – share a headline of a risk you could take in group but won’t
  • Desires or Boundary – share a current desire or boundary you have in this group
  • Withold/Owning it – take turns respectfully and safely sharing withholds or sharing a projection you will now own.
  • Vulnerability Asymmetry – share your story about how there is an asymmetry of vulnerability in the group and then get impact.
  • Appreciate/Apologize – take turns appreciating or apologizing for what has happen in group so far
  • Feedback/Impact – take turns respectfully sharing feedback and then impact
  • Story explosion – take 30 seconds each to share as much story as you can.
  • Change roles – take on a different role than you usually take in group
  • Get it out – Wrestle, jump, move, dance, scream, grunt for 30 seconds
  • Halftime checkouts – Take 1 minute each to check out as if the T-Group were over. Then go back in and see what arises, having named the discomfort.
Safety Safety

T-groups tend to encourage vulnerability, revealing hidden emotions, and deep contact with others. If something comes up that you are not ready for, it is important to maintain your own agency and insist on your safety.

  • Safety of Others – How you act can affect the personal safety of others.
    • This is an emotional practice group, not a dating or hook-up group.
    • People are sharing vulnerable sides of themselves. Please respect their privacy outside the container of T-Group.
    • “Openness” and “truth” do not have intrinsic value. They must be employed in a context of sensitive responsibility for the needs of the other. Otherwise, they are simply new one-up weapons.
    • Power dynamics exist even when an explicit violation of safety may not.
      • Be aware of size, gender, physicality, and experience as potentially, silently, subconsciously, affecting other members of the group and their sense of safety.
    • Act in service of connection
  • Safety of Self – You are ultimately responsible for your own safety.
    • Practice self-care.
    • Enforce your own boundaries.
    • Leave, if need be. Do what you need to take care of yourself.
    • There is no assumption of confidentiality here. We encourage you to be vulnerable, but use your own discretion.

Logistics and details

How often does T-group meet? How often does T-group meet?

We typically meet every Sunday night for the standard practice. We also meet an additional night once every couple months for intro training.

Where is T-Group held? Where is T-Group held?

T-Group is typically held at the house of one of the community members. A large house is ideally suited to hold up to 5-7 small groups of people. If a suitable public space or building is available, sometimes that is used.

What is the schedule/format of T-group? What is the schedule/format of T-group?

6:00 – Gathering, mingling, greeting. Informal.
6:15 – We begin with a couple minutes of silence to ground into ourselves and arrive in the space energetically. Often there will be a round for everyone to put their name and voice into the group in a fun, quick way, like sharing a sound or a word or something (a single word) that you are feeling. This is designed to be brief and to weave a container with everyone’s voice and presence. After a round or two of sharing, there may be a few minutes of a review of the practice and guidelines, and a chance to ask questions.
6:30 – We count off or draw cards that organize us into fairly random groups of 5-8 people each and head to separate spaces to practice.
7:45 – Finish groups, meet back in the common area, mingle. Open space for sharing experiences from the first group. Divide up again for a second round
9:00 - Finish groups, meet back in the common area, mingle. Open space for sharing experiences from the second group. Community announcements. Close.

Facebook Groups

We use Facebook as the primary means of communication outside the Sunday night practice. This includes scheduling, meeting locations, announcements, discussions, etc.

Facebook Posting Guidelines Facebook Posting Guidelines

As a community, we engage in a personal, intimate, face to face practice. Much of the magic of this practice is lost in a written medium such as Facebook. There is no eye contact, body language, voice intonation, and no immediate feedback or sharing of impact. There is no shared container or expectation of intimacy. With these limitations in mind, we encourage everyone to use the following guidelines when posting here:

  • The primary purpose of the Facebook page is to share logistics, such as announcing the location, coordinating carpools, etc. Events and activities interesting to the community are encouraged, but should be posted to the "Social Events & Offerings for Boulder T-groupies" page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/BoulderTgroupSocial. T-group related discussions are welcome, but are expected to be of integrity and in service of deeper connection.
  • Disagreements are likely and can be healthy, however, critiques should clearly be about ideas and not directed toward specific individuals. If in doubt, save it for a face-to-face discussion; there is an opportunity for this every Sunday.
  • Use T-group conversation guidelines in online communication. These include owning your own experience, not judging others, being vulnerable before asking others to do so, etc.
  • The Facebook group has over a thousand members. Posts to this group are effectively open and viewable to the public.
  • Posts that are deliberately hostile, insulting, provocative, bigoted, or personally attacking/shaming will be removed.
  • Posts identifying specific people (directly or by inference) may be removed for their privacy and safety. Anyone mentioned by name or inference may request the post be removed, and their request will be honored without need for justification.
  • Posters who repeatedly have posts removed may be removed from the group.
Primary Facebook Group Primary Facebook Group

The primary Facebook is called Boulder T-Groupies. This is where we announce the location of T-group for the upcoming week, as well as the date and location of intro nights. People also use this page to discuss their experiences in recent T-groups or ideas they have about the practice. This is a private group. If you would like to join, please go to the page and request.

Social Events Page Social Events Page

Community is important and many of us have shared interestes. We created a second Facebook page for everyone to share events, workshops, performances, etc. that are going on in the area and would likely be interesting to members of the community. This is available here: Social Events & Offerings for Boulder T-groupies.

Introduction nights

How often are intro nights, where are they announced, etc? How often are intro nights, where are they announced, etc?

Intro nights are generally held monthly and will be announced on the Facebook page. There is usually a separate Facebook event page for each one, and the link should be posted in the Facebook page.

Once I've attended an intro night, can I come to the regular T-group? Once I've attended an intro night, can I come to the regular T-group?

Once you have attended an intro night, you are welcome to attend Sunday night T-group, which occurs weekly. You are encouraged to practice T-group Fundamentals for several 45 minute T-groups before trying out an “expanded” practice, which builds on the basics and allows for more experimentation and improvisation.

Some considerations for first-time participants Some considerations for first-time participants

  • Learning how to speak within the T-Group format can be like learning a foreign language. You will likely feel awkward and unsure, and you will make mistakes. This is normal! Being with the emotions that come up is part of the experience of T-Group.
  • If you don’t know what to say, look at another person and notice what you feel in your body. Then, speak that feeling. Example: “When I look at you, I feel warm and light.” Or, “Seeing the expression on your face, I want to draw away from you.”
  • If you receive a hand signal from another participant or facilitator, it does not mean you have done anything bad or wrong. Instead, consider it an invitation to notice that you have strayed outside of the T-Group guidelines, and to come back to what you are feeling right now. (Note that it is best not to give hand signals to someone with whom you are currently engaged. Leave that to the facilitator!)
  • When you are asking someone else to reveal more about their experience (i.e., “I want to know more about how you’re feeling” or “I want to know how that last comment impacted you”), feel for your own deeper motivation, agenda or feelings below mere curiosity. For example: “I would have felt really triggered by what Jane just said to you, and I’m wondering if you’re having that same experience. Would you share more about what you’re feeling right now?”
  • A good rule of thumb is to notice when you say “I feel like”—that phrase is usually followed by a thought or story, rather than a present-moment feeling. Instead, say “I feel….” Remember that T-Group is not a normal conversation where you follow the thread of a storyline. It will be hard at first, but the idea is to let go of the story (no matter how compelling it is) and stay with the feelings you’re having.

Current Members Current Members

Mark Lackey, Tim Singleton

Target Composition Target Composition

4-6 experienced T-groupies, gender balanced if practicable

Leadership Agreements Leadership Agreements
  • Agrees to contribute a constructive voice to the community and advocate for the principles and guidelines agreed upon by the community.
  • Agrees to models the practice and principles of T-group as agreed to by the community.
  • Agrees to listen to varying viewpoints in the community and make decisions that consider everyone’s opinions. Final decisions may not make everyone happy, but everyone’s voice will be considered.
  • Agrees to monitor the sentiment of the community and effectiveness of the practice. Proposes modifications to our principles, guidelines, and agreements as necessary.
  • Agrees to act as conflict mediators for any major difference in the community.
  • Agrees to create and maintain any necessary documents to support T-group such as guidelines, mission statements, schedules, etc.
  • Agrees to administer and maintain communication forums that support the community such as the Facebook group and community meetings.
  • Agrees to respond in a timely fashion to all questions and inquiries electronic or otherwise from the other leadership and the overall community.
Decision Process Decision Process
  • Decisions are made by consensus. In a team of this size, we define consensus as unanimous minus 1 (i.e. everyone on the leadership team except one must agree in order to move forward with a decision). However, unanimous group consensus is preferred. The general principle being let’s move forward and make a decision if you ‘can you live with it’.
  • If a leadership team member is unresponsive for more than a week without prior notice then they are considered to be abstaining from the any current decision process.
  • If a leadership team member consistently does not meet leadership requirements or agreements then they may be voted off by the remaining T-group leaders by majority vote.
  • Significant changes to the practice or community will be announced first, then tested with an opportunity for the community to give feedback.
Removing Members Removing Members

T-group strives to be an open and inclusive community. We pride ourselves on accepting everyone even if they challenge us or push our boundaries. In T-group, the most challenging people are often valued as our greatest teachers. However, in very rare circumstances, it may be determined that a member is not supporting the mission and values of the T-group community. In these cases, the degree of challenge or disruption an individual is bringing to the community seems beyond healthy limits and is not contributing to our evolution as a group. For these very rare circumstances, T-group has the following member removal process:

  1. One or more T-group community members privately inform the leadership team that they believe a member should be removed from the community. These requests are not taken lightly so please provide specific examples of non-supportive behavior and well thought out reasons for the request.
  2. The leadership meets to discuss to discuss the possible removal. The leadership team will vote to determine if a removal seems warranted. If yes, a leadership team member privately meets with the offending individual to discuss the situation. The individual is given feedback on their specific behaviors with the hope they will choose to show up in a more supportive way for the community. The individual is then given a probationary period to show in a way that is more aligned with the mission of T-group.
  3. If it seems appropriate, a conflict group between the offended members and offending members may be conducted. In extreme circumstances, a community meeting may be convened to get more clarity on the situation.
  4. After the probationary period, leadership members meet with involved parties separately to determine if the situation has been resolved or is on a positive trajectory. If yes, then all is good in the world.
  5. If the individual still does not seem supportive of the T-group mission, the leadership team will announce the pending removal to the T-group community and solicit feedback. In some cases, a community meeting may be held to discuss the removal. Once all feedback is considered, the leadership team will vote on whether to remove the individual. If the individual is removed they will no longer be welcomed at any T-group event including Sunday night T-group and Intro Nights. In addition, they will be removed from the Facebook group.
  6. One year after removal, the individual may approach the leadership team to be considered for re-entry into the community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the mission or purpose of T-group? What's the mission or purpose of T-group?

T-group serves different people in different ways. This is like asking, what is the mission or purpose of yoga or meditation? It is a practice of staying aware of your internal space and your responses to others, and sharing this awareness in a “group” present awareness field. It is particularly helpful in learning to stay connected to yourself while relating to others authentically.

To create a nurturing and caring community that allows us to grow our capacity for: being in the present, expressing from vulnerability, exploring interpersonal intimacy, giving and receiving feedback, parsing our felt experience, understanding our impact on others, pushing our edges, building compassion and respect for other, understanding group dynamics, witnessing human experience, being present in the “I and We” of the moment, owning our own experience, using play and creativity in relating, and exploring connection and friendship.

Expanded T-Groups Expanded T-Groups

The T-Group magic has arisen from a certain established structure and rules. The path of least resistance is to change T-Group into STORY group. Stories past and future are where most of us live and will often be our default desire since relating in the moment is HARD.

However, some of the most potent T-Groups happen when a group strays outside of the strict guidelines. An experienced group with self-awareness and discipline may be able to incorporate some more story to give a richer context to one’s feelings. Other skills and perceptions may come into play to gain a deeper understanding of members in the group.

To address the desire to explore this, we sometimes offer the choice to partake in an “Expanded T-Group.” The assumption in these groups is to use the standard T-Group guidelines as the base practice, but with more allowance for stepping beyond these guidelines when doing so is in service of greater connection or deeper authentic relationship.

Beginners are encouraged, but not required, to stick with the fundamental practice for several weeks until they feel they have a comfortable grasp on the fundamentals of the practice before moving into these groups.

Community Community

As this practice has become more popular, a community has developed and grown up around it. We will have community meetings every month or two to discuss whatever issues are up and alive in the community that aren’t typically able to be expressed during the course of the normal T-Group practice.

The community is lead by a small group of volunteers from the active T-Group community. The T-Group community, like T-Groups themselves, is largely self-organizing and self-sustaining. When community issues or desires arise, this is the group that takes input from the community and helps bring those desires or difficulties into the open and helps deal with them.

The cutting edge of this practice might be experimental groups – groups that meet outside the weekly community practice to explore different potentials. Here we can use the foundation of “meditation meets authentic relating” to explore different ways of relating with others who are experienced at holding intrapersonal, interpersonal, and group field awareness, and who are interested in exploring new forms.

What does the T stand for? What does the T stand for?

When the practice wad first being developed, the groups were called Sensitity Training Groups. The “T” stood for “Training”.

How did T-Group start? How did T-Group start?

In response to the post-WWII difficulty with ethnicity and race relations in northern US cities, a facilitated two-week workshop was put together to help address these issues. The facilitators regularly met to discuss the day’s outcomes, and some participants overheard the discussion. They asked and were granted permission to listen in on the discussion. When one woman recognized herself as the topic of conversation, she interjected to explain what she was feeling at the time. This idea of talking about how one felt during an interaction as the primary thing to look at evolved into the T-group practice.

How is it different in Boulder? How is it different in Boulder?

The organization that officially developed and runs the historical T-Group practice is called National Training Labs in Bethel, Maine. The practice in Boulder is based on the concepts developed there, but it has evolved here to a different practice to that taught at NTL. We have different group sizes and session times, and a different focus on remaining in the present moment.