Small-Group Session (2 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:
Excerpt To Live in the Mercy of God, by Denise Levertov
To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
before ribs of shelter
To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.
To float, upheld,
as salt water
would hold you,
once you dared.
Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question. The check-in question is: “How is your heart and life?”
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 page 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: “Where in your life right now is there space or experiences of wonder? Have you had periods in your life when wonder and awe were absent? What are the limits of wonder?”
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 but the responses should not be attempts to fix a dilemma raised, correct someone’s feelings or .
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
The chorus of amazement turns us
She stills shouts
From the weeping
The trumpet sounds at daybreak.
Quotes for The Common Bowl
“[Our National Parks] are more than scenery, they are portals and thresholds of wonder, an open door that swings back and forth from our past to our future.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin
“Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence...And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives”
― Fred Rogers
“Every once in a while, and it happens only several times a year if I am lucky, I will feel astonishment that I exist, that I am sitting, standing, perceiving, and that others perceive me...It is probably a good thing I am not always so aware of my existence because otherwise I would walk about in a haze of wonder embracing things.”
― Meia Geddes, Love Letters to the World
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats
“You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down”
― Charlie Chaplin
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”
― Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
“even so did you feel yourself swept away by that inward migration about which no one had ever said a word to you…A great wind swept through and delivered from the matrix the sleeping prince you sheltered- man within you. You are the equal of the musician composing his music, of the physicist extending the frontier of knowledge…you have reached an altitude where all loves are of the same stuff.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars
“I feel that fear is negative wonder. It is the point at which wonder begins to consume itself and scrape off the essence of things.”
― John O'Donohue, Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World
“The division between the known and the unknown is not complete. The East has a threefold division—known, unknown, unknowable. It agrees with the West that the unknown can become known, but the unknowable will always remain unknowable. There will always be mystery around human consciousness. There will be always mystery around love, friendship, meditation, consciousness. We may be able to know all that is objective. But the subjectivity, the innermost core of human consciousness, will remain always a mystery. And this has been the persistent effort of the East, to make it clear to the whole world that the unknowable should not be denied; otherwise you will take all juice out of human life. You will create robots out of human beings, you will destroy them, and they will be just machines and nothing more.”
― Osho, Innocence, Knowledge, and Wonder: What Happened to the Sense of Wonder I Felt as a Child?