“Ways of Knowing"

Small-Group Session (1 of 4)



“Ways of Knowing”

Small-Group Session (1 of 4)


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:

“In this circle, we affirm interdependence,

Through an open process.

In this circle, we acknowledge that our individual knowledge

Is partial and finite,

Much like our lives and our time.

So we honor the commitment we make here.

In this circle, we open ourselves to new ways of knowing,



We kindle the dynamic of being human

Animated at the edges of our tension

Disquieted in unraveling,

Soothed in our shared evolution.

So let each, with the breath that is drawn

Know the healing and discomfort of growth.

Let this flame illuminate it all,

As the shadows dance our hope and fear in our midst.”


Brief Check-In

Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question.  The check-in question is: “What kind of learner are you?  How do you learn best?”


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: “Consider an experience in your life where your knowledge or awareness of something shifted.  Share the experience of knowing something new or in a different way.  Have you ever experienced an awakening?”


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 & Extinguishing the Chalice

May I leave with an ability to hold the questions,

To stay curious and compassionate.

May I leave not with answers that are weapons

But with a willingness to companion, to receive the world anew.


 (extinguish chalice)



Quotes for The Common Bowl:


“We live in a stocking which is in the process of being turned inside out, without our ever knowing for sure to what phase of the process our moment of consciousness corresponds.”

Vladimir Nabokov


“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”

-Bertrand Russell


“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

- Kofi Annan


“The only source of knowledge is experience.”

- Albert Einstein


“No one and nothing outside of you can give you salvation, or free you from the misery. You have to light your own lamp. You have to know the miniature universe that you yourself are.”

Banani Ray


“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”

- Immanuel Kant


“Empathy nurtures wisdom. Apathy cultivates ignorance.”

Suzy Kassem


“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart...”

Pema Chödrön


“The degree to which your Consciousness expands, is the degree to which you understand yourself and the universe.”

Gina Charles


“It's exhilarating to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting, and painful.”

- Adrienne Rich