An Introduction to the Clarity Process
Ways of finding inner clarity and accessing a wisdom beyond our ordinary understanding have been around for a long time.
Individual spiritual practices in monastic and mystical traditions, including contemplative prayer and certain types of meditation, go back thousands of years and have made it possible for individuals to connect with deep insights and develop discernment about situations in their lives and decisions they need to make. There are also one-on-one and interactive practices that people have used to access personal insight and inner wisdom, including the processes of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, and more recently, the personal acceptance and "unconditional positive regard" that is central to the process in person-centered psychotherapy.
There are also group practices to help people gain personal insight. For instance, as long ago as the 1660's, the Quaker community used a group process (the "Clearness Committee") to help individuals gain personal insight around important personal questions or decisions. Clearness Committees are not just a historical practice, but are used today in the Quaker community and elsewhere. Educator and author Parker J. Palmer has found ways to use Clearness
Committees for professional and personal development, helping people "reconnect who you are with what you do." I am pleased to be part of his organization, the Center for Courage & Renewal, and to offer this work to individuals and to professional groups in Circle of Trust® retreats.
In developing Clarity Sessions, we were inspired and informed by many of these individual, one-on-one, and group traditions and practices. We also were mindful that we wanted to offer something that had genuine value to people. So we tested several different versions of this process with our friends and colleagues. After many attempts, we were satisfied we had found a one-on-one process that could help people get genuine insight into what is right for them about important questions, decisions or issues.
What makes inner clarity possible?
In finding clarity about something that's important to you, a Clarity Session invites you to look beyond what you’re already thinking and feeling. This makes it very different than most experiences of psychotherapy, counseling, life coaching, advice-giving, or problem-solving. There are also other important aspects of our interaction and relationship during a Clarity Session that make it possible.
During a Clarity Session
The characteristics of a Clarity Session that we’ve talked about so far – safety, acceptance, respect, confidentiality, and welcoming – are all part of creating the conditions for becoming aware of your own insight. Here's what else you'll be doing before and during the sessions.
Prior to the Clarity Session, you'll work on engaging with your question or issue in a deeper way through journaling and perhaps other activities. We'll also ask you to find and bring objects or pictures to the session that represent aspects of your question or issue.
The session itself is unhurried and contemplative, and is likely to include several periods of silence. As we begin, you'll have several minutes to describe your issue or question. We'll then ask brief, open and honest questions to help you explore it. Questions are open when they offer an opportunity for more than a “yes” or “no” answer, and honest when we have no idea how you'll answer them! Being mindful of the guideline not to fix, save or advise you even in subtle ways, we avoid questions that have an agenda or a "right” answer. Such questions often feel pressuring and judgmental, and make it less likely that the process will facilitate your awareness of your own insight.
I'll take notes during the session, and after the period for questions is over, I'll reflect back to you some of the key things you said in your own words. This adds to the richness of your experience, and allows you to hear your thoughts presented to you in a different voice. In keeping with our commitment to confidentiality, you will take all written notes with you when you leave. At the end of the session, there is an opportunity for affirming you and the new insights you've experienced.
The process is far from over once the session has ended. We encourage you to journal about your session later that day and afterwards. We also suggest you develop a simple personal practice or find an object to keep with you that can remind you of the insights that have come to you and help you integrate them in the weeks or months afterwards. If you make significant decisions as a result of your Clarity Session (and many people have done so), those decisions may profoundly change your life.