Small-Group Session (1 of 2)
Before the session starts, the leader should set chairs in a circle, with a chalice and matches on a small table in the middle, or somewhere visible to participants. Make sure the strips of paper for “Readings from the Common Bowl” are in the bowl. Welcome people, and allow folks to settle before lighting the chalice.
Chalice Lighting and Opening Words
The group leader lights the chalice (or asks someone else to) and then, with the intent of creating sacred space, reads the following words:
The words fall easy upon our tongues,
What’s harder is living this faith
Letting the ancestors guide
your life to be a litany
Your brief time to be a testimony
And your legacy to be love.
Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question. The check-in question is: “What is present for you at this time?”
Readings from the common bowl
The leader passes around the bowl, with strips of paper that have quotes on them. Invites each person to take one strip/quote out of the bowl. Then, invites each to read the quotes. They don’t have to read in order, one right next to the last one. But instead, invite them to allow some silence after every quote, and then to see if the quote they picked out of the bowl should go next or not. (See additional section below for quotes; these are the quotes that will be torn into separate strips, and put in the bowl before the meeting)
After everyone has read the different statements, the leader asks the central question that will guide the session’s discussion: “What have you struggled to embody in your life?”
Leader invites attendees to take no more than 2 minutes to share a response to the question. Find a way to gently hold the group to the no-more-than-2-minute limit. Also, let people know there’s no cross-talk to the responses: group-members don’t answer the statements people make. One person speaks for oneself, then the next person does the same. It’s not a conversation, so much as a series of statements. Again, each with some silence or space between. And, again, voices don’t need to go in order, with people sitting beside each other speaking—just as the Spirit moves.
After hearing everyone’s statements, the leader invites the group to sit in silence for 2-3 minutes. This is not time for them to plan what they’ll say. It’s time to sit and be present, to let whatever comes up, come up.
Second round, reflections on what was heard, with additional thoughts
Whereas in the first round, attendees were encouraged to stick to their own thoughts, here in the second round, people can respond to some of what they heard. Again, encourage brevity—whether a formal 2-minute limit is enforced or not, encourage the conversation to move from one place to another in the circle, not getting dragged down to one or two voices who speak at length. It’s OK for people to respond to each other’s comments.
Likes and wishes
The leader asks for people to share, as they’re moved, what they liked about the session, and what they wish for next time, that they may or may not have experienced this time.
Closing Words & Extinguishing the Chalice
Let me embody the values I live for
Let my life be a poem of integrity
Each day a new commitment to these ideals
And let me nights swim in a sea of forgiveness
To edge toward the daylight of a new day.
Quotes for The Common Bowl
“For at some point, each of us will be asked to embody what we feel and know.”
“We are all students of the world; frail embodied consciousnesses struggling to understand, and be a meaningful part of this great, mysterious gift of life.”
“I think I'm a living embodiment of, 'Don't try to push me around or squash me,' whether its how I talk to a record label or in my relationships.”
– Bonnie Raitt
“Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.”
— William Butler Yeats
“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
“The most effective teachers embody the teaching that they are giving.”
—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
“Words embody power, to inspire or motivate us, but it is only we who have the power to see it and feel it.”
“What I love about writing is the contradictions we humans all embody.”
“Live in such a way that you embody peace in every moment of your daily life. It is possible for everyone to generate the energy of peace in each step.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
“Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws-but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted-when we tolerate what we know to be wrong-when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened-when we fail to speak up and speak out-we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.”