Small-Group Session (1 of 2)

To print this outline as a PDF, click here.


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: We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Brief Check-In

Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question.  The check-in question is: “What was the last thing someone thanked you for?”

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)

Focusing Question

After everyone has read the different statements, the leader asks the central question that will guide the session’s discussion: “What are the obstacles you have seen or experienced to expressing gratitude more freely?”

First Round

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

One who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.  –Lao Tzu


Quotes for the Common Bowl

If the only prayer you ever said was, ‘Thank you,’ that would be enough.  –Meister Eckhart


Comedian Stephen Colbert, speaking of his spiritual growth through family tragedy, said, “I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”  


Gratitude is wine for the soul.  Go on.  Get drunk.  –Rumi


He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus


"At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." --Albert Schweitzer


'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.  –Alice Walker


Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.  –Karl Barth


Gratitude is subversive.  –Joanna Macy


“Gratefulness is the measure of our aliveness. Are we not dead to whatever we take for granted?. . .A single crocus blossom ought to be enough to convince our heart that springtime, no matter how predictable, is somehow a gift.” -Brother David Steindl-Rast


"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. " G.B.Stern


Be careful what you wish for.  You just might get it. –Traditional Saying


Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows.” Nisargadatta Maharaj.


“You will receive everything you need when you stop asking for what you do not need” Nisargadatta Maharaj