“Ways of Knowing”

Small-Group Session (2 of 4)




“Ways of Knowing”

Small-Group Session (2 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:

Where do you search me?

I am with you

Not in pilgrimage, nor in icons

Neither in solitudes

Not in temples, nor in mosques

Neither in Kaba nor in Kailash

I am with you O man

I am with you

Not in prayers, nor in meditation

Neither in fasting

Not in yogic exercises

Neither in renunciation

Neither in the vital force nor in the body

Not even in the ethereal space

Neither in the womb of Nature

Not in the breath of the breath

Seek earnestly and discover

In but a moment of search

Says Kabir, Listen with care

Where your faith is, I am there.

-Kabir (15th century Indian mystic and poet)


Brief Check-In

Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question.  The check-in question is: “Where do you find wisdom?  Where do you turn for insight?”


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: “How do you cultivate knowledge in your life?  Is there something more important than knowledge to you?”


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

We extinguish this light,

But not the spark of curiosity

Not the flame of illumination

Not the fire that burns for expansion and connection.

That flame- of our very faith- we take with a humble care into the world.

 (extinguish chalice)


Quotes for The Common Bowl:

Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.

-Lao Tzu


Many spiritual teachers - in Buddhism, in Islam - have talked about first-hand experience of the world as an important part of the path to wisdom, to enlightenment.

-bell hooks


No one wants advice - only corroboration.

- John Steinbeck


I learned a long time ago that life introduces young people to situations they are in no way prepared for, even good girls, lucky girls who want for nothing. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you become the girl in the woods. You lose your name because another one is forced on you. You think you are alone until you find books about girls like you. Salvation is certainly among the reasons I read. Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds.

Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist


We are trapped by stereotypes – Black as criminal, Latino as illegal, Muslim and Sikh as terrorist, indigenous as savage, trans as deviant, and women as property. Once a person is reduced to a stereotype, it becomes easier to rape them, imprison them, and kill them. But stories can destroy stereotypes. Our stories can set us free. Stories can save us. Stories enable us to see others as worthy of love, and therefore worth fighting for. Everyone has a story. Which story have you yet to tell? Whose story have you yet to hear?

-Valarie Kaur


Don't gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold.

-Bob Marley


Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom.



Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.

-Eckhart Tolle


Wisdom is the daughter of experience.

-Leonardo DaVinci


A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.

-Bruce Lee