We continue to face an increasing polarization within our country in many areas. To move forward together as a country demands that we try some new ways of being and acting toward each other rather than the same old debate, persuade, or demonize strategies.
The Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue’s experience over these past years testifies to the power of contemplation to invite a transformation of consciousness. We believe it is time to see how this approach may offer a new and creative way of bridging our differences.
That is why we are inviting you to throw a party—A Coffee and Tea Contemplation Party.
Here are some how to’s.
1. Invite people who do not all think the same way. These may be family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and/or people you meet in your work/ministry.
2. Keep the group relatively small. Probably no more than 10.
3. Have them sit in a circle or around the kitchen table—makes it easier to serve coffee and tea!
4. Have everyone introduce themselves if necessary.
5. Share the purpose of the Party and create an atmosphere of reverence perhaps by having a candle which you can light when you begin.
(People need a structure to give them permission to act differently. You want to create a new space for them.)
Share that contemplation is an ancient human practice and is found within all major religions. Contemplation invites you to quiet yourself and become present to the Divine/Energy within and among you. Let them know that sitting in silence for a period of time opens up our capacity to receive the gift of each other in new ways. Sitting in silence also invites us to become aware of our own prejudices, biases and assumptions. Assure them that there is no hidden agenda. Rather, you are doing this in solidarity with others around the country who believe that this type of prayer is in and of itself a new way of acting.
6. Now ask them to become silent, present to this moment. Light the candle and suggest to them to make their heart spacious so as not to resist any idea or person; to be open to one’s own prejudices, assumptions and fears; and to stay present and truly listen to what each other says and to what emerges in the silence.
7. Share the process with them. Tell them that you will ask a question and then take one minute for everyone to reflect on their response. Then you will invite them to share a word or a phrase. Ask them not to take longer than 30 seconds. Let them know that they are not going to discuss what is said but rather it is an opportunity to hear from everyone before you enter into 20 minutes of contemplative sitting. You might mention that that might seem long but that there is evidence from a number of sources that twenty minutes is the minimal time needed to really begin to “drop down” into this other space. Encourage them to just do the best they can.
(You will need to watch the time. If you said the party would be 45 or 60 minutes long keep to that. What you want to insure is that they have 20 minutes to sit in contemplative silence. Try not to cut that short.)
8. Pose the question:*
First Party: What do you cherish most about living in the United States?
Second Party: What kind of world do you want for your children and your children’s children?
Third Party: What do you fear the most about the future?
Fourth Party: What is your hope about bridging the gap among us as a people?
*Sometimes polarization occurs in relation to theological/ecclesial issues. At A CTC Ecclesial Party pose the following:
First Party: What do you cherish about being a Catholic?
Second Party: What do you find challenging about being a Catholic and living in the United States?
Third Party: What do you fear most about the future of our Church?
Fourth Party: What is your hope about bridging the gap among us as a faith community?
9. Give them a minute to reflect and then invite their response.
10. After each person speaks have the group say “we thank you, (say the person’s name) and we respect what you have shared.”
11. When the last person has finished invite them into 20 minutes of contemplative sitting.
12. After 20 minutes (you will have to be watching the time) quietly bring their attention back to the center of the circle.
13. Depending on the time you may invite any reflection on the experience or simply invite everyone to give thanks for what they shared in both speech and in silence.
14. If there is going to be another Party you may want to set the dates.
15. Let us know how it went. Write us at email@example.com (put CTC Party in the subject line) or go to the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue Facebook page and post your reflection.
Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue © 2011-2015.