Here are some suggestions for shared practices that will bring everyone into the fold, give them a sense of belonging and harness everyone’s unique gifts to contribute to the group.
These practices are about creating a space where people can connect with each other on a deeper level than normal. It’s good to keep the exercises simple.
Deep listening and noticing how other people’s sharing resonates through your experience is as important as the sharing itself. Being a sacred witness to other people is a really beautiful part of experience and people can sense when they are being listened to.
There can be a sense of awkwardness when we’re first interacting in this way – it’s good to welcome the awkwardness and use this as an opportunity to be mindful of that.
You can use this as an opportunity to be both curious and respectful of what feels safe and meaningful to share in a group setting.
Getting to know this process inside of ourselves can be as valuable as the sharing itself and it can give us more confidence in speaking our truth out in the normal world too.
Whenever a new group of people forms, it is vital to create a circle and for everyone to introduce themselves. This automatically relaxes us and allows our bodies and minds to drop into ‘friends-mode’ rather than high-alert ‘stranger-mode’. If we can share something about ourselves this helps even more.
Simply sitting in a circle and asking each person to share their experiences is vital to forming a group conscious. Modelling a degree of vulnerability, that it’s ok to talk about your feelings or challenges, is a fast-track to creating a really strong sense of belonging and forming a collective conscious.
You could ask people to share their current experience, or encourage people to share around a specific theme or topic. If you are doing a dharma talk, it’s really nice to first ask people what they think about that topic before you start. People will feel more engaged and included, rather than like they are being lectured.
You can also expand on this with joint inquiry exercises, where you take it in turns to share what is happening in your present moment with another person or in a small group.
Offering Eye Contact/ Body Contact
Simple exercises like spending 5 minutes to take it in turns to offer up a kind-loving presence, either in the form of eye contact or placing your hands on someone’s head, feet, back etc. has a profound impact on our ability to connect with each other. It can be really healing and connecting for people.
As the offerer, you don’t need to give anything just hold a space of kind non-judgement. As the receiver, you can have the freedom to decide how you engage with it.
Symbolism & Creativity
Anything that is more creative, allows us to open into the mystery of life together. It can be quite magical the way in which our creative ways of expressing ourselves can resonate with each other in a way that more direct conversation can sometimes struggle to.
To facilitate this you need something that people can connect with in a hands-on way. For example, a set of beautiful cards or objects that have some symbolism in them.
Pick a question for the group and then ask each member to choose one of the cards or objects that best represents that for them. Go around the group and ask each person to describe why they chose it and what it represents to them.
Another way to do this would be to get people to draw an image as an answer. The idea is that our creativity, intuitive responses and symbolism can hold a lot more depth than we realise and it open us up to a different way of communicating and listening to each other.
It can also be nice to listen to something creative like a yoga nidra, together and then reflect back as a group on the journey each person has been on and what resonated with them.
Some example of questions you can explore:
- What is one thing in life that you would like to be able to let go of?
- What is one thing in life that you would like to be able to cultivate more of?
- What do you feel best describes you?
- What is a quality that you appreciate in others?
- How would you describe the group dynamic?
Listening to Music Together
Music has a profound ability to connect people. When we meditate and listen to music together, it allows us to enter a deep meditative state while also retaining a shared-collective conscious. It can be a deeply powerful experience. Gong baths and guided meditations that have a poetic feel to them, like a yoga nidra, can also create the same effect.
It’s important to do some heart practices before embarking on this, as we are taking a journey into the sub-conscious. If we enter through the door of the heart it keeps things light and wholesome, if we go through the door of the mind things can present as quite dark and disturbing. A group heart-sharing before you start will form a collective conscious that can be carried through into the meditation. A sharing after will perhaps reveal some interesting insights into a shared group experience or sense of resonance.
Exploring the Heart States
Discovering how we manifest the heart states in our being is a really powerful experience. These questions allow us to journey through the different states and think about what they mean for us in our lives. They work best in pairs or very small groups. Your partner can ask you the questions and hold a space of kind non-judgement for you to respond in. Take a few minutes to explore each question.
- Friendliness: How would a kind friend describe you?
- Compassion: Describe a challenge that you face in life. How does this make you feel?
- Joy: What brings you joy in life? What is something dark or absurd that you take joy in?
- Inclusion: Is there anything else that you feel is important to recognise about you?
It can also be deeply moving to ask someone else to answer these questions about you.