It seems that when we gather, we need some structure or format in order to experience some continuity and feel comfortable. We believe that the simpler such a structure is, the better it is. At the same time, we need to be careful that we don’t become too rigid in our expectations. An occasional change in the pattern can keep the spirit of community alive.
As we sit in a circle in our family room, a “Talking Stick” is passed around giving each person an opportunity to answer the unspoken question. “How ya doin’?” The question can be interpreted several ways, for instance:
What have you been doing?
How are you feeling?
What are you thinking about?
It can be assumed that during this time, good neighbors will listen empathetically, refrain from side conversations, offer encouragement, and suspend judgment. Sometimes shaking the “Talking Stick” will produce the desired behavior.
This is a time of silence. Its purpose may depend upon one’s understanding of spirituality or worldview. It may be considered to be an empty space in which we can dispose of our anxieties and fears.. It may be where we can consciously be in touch with our Source and/or our intersubjectiveness . It may be a shift in focus from thinking to feeling. It may simply be a time to relax or let go of the stress we brought with us. It may be the most important and valuable time that we spend together.
The content of this time can vary. It can be used to plan a neighborhood project, discuss a planned topic, or be a free form time of sharing.
The group may move in and out of several levels of conversation:
- Polite Exchange – superficial or trivial phrases with little content.
- Debate – competition of ideas, awareness of different perspectives.
- Dialog – seeking to understand or see from another’s perspective.
- Communion – experiencing a deep connection after understanding has been reached.
Moving toward our purpose will result in more conversation at levels 3 & 4.
Each person is now given an opportunity to share a final comment, perhaps expressing their feelings about the gathering as it comes to an end.