Group Awareness Exercises are group activities that enhance participants' capacity to be fully present with themselves, each other and the group. In many cases, the rituals contradict mainstream styles of communication in important ways. These contradictions pull participants out of habitual patterns of communication, thought, feeling, and responsiveness, into a greater present-time awareness of what's happening in and around them.
The following is taken from http://www.co-intelligence.org/I-CASPER.html, my (TomAtlee's) vision of a group that did such things. I experienced some of these in an earlier group awareness group I was part of.
Many other group awareness exercises are possible and should be added to this list.
Candle-centered silence -- into which occasional voices come.
We will sit silently in a circle with a candle in the middle. We will not go around the circle to speak; it will be more like a Quaker meeting. If anyone feels MOVED to speak from their heart or center or "place of deep caring" (etc.) they can do so in that moment, after which the silence will descend again among us. The silence has priority over any conversation: It is perfectly fine to have no one say anything the whole time, or to have a number of people speak now and then in the silence. If the leader judges there is too much talking, he will ring a chime to bring the silence to the fore once again.
Facing each other from the four directions (with spanning attention).
Phase I: To start with, we'll pair up and sit facing each other -- "just being there and doing nothing but being there" for 5 minutes. Then we'll have a 5 minute break to individually reflect on what happened and write down journal notes. Then we'll do the same for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute journal break. Then there will be 5-10 minutes for Q&A and sharing.
Phase 2: Next we'll sit in chairs facing each other in two tight circles of four, with one person in each of the four directions, knees not quite touching. We'll do that for five minutes, ten minutes and then 15-30 minutes, each time followed by a 5 minute journal break. (The length of the last sitting will depend on how much time we have. We may try two ending times, with the second being for those who are more ambitious. This experience can be intense, in both beautiful and difficult ways.)
Then we'll talk a bit about what it was like.
Except for the Q&A/sharing periods and occasional instructions from the leader, the entire process will be silent. While we are facing each other, we will say and do nothing, only be with each other. We will do our best to be still, not fidgeting, responding, trying to communicate with facial expressions or ESP or doing anything else other than being there, sitting facing each other. Those who want a real challenge can even try not blinking.
Occasionally the leader may remind participants to span their attention -- particularly in the second half of the exercise, to attend to the two people who are sitting to their right and left, even as they look at the person in front of them.
Coached body/context mindfulness
We will start with a brief guided meditation to tune us into our bodies and surroundings. Then we will have an ordinary conversation, on whatever subjects happen to come up. At any point the leader or any participant may interrupt the conversation to alert us to some part of our bodies, our consciousness or our context -- and, after a pause to attend to that, the conversation can continue. In particular, people are encouraged to be aware (or articulate their awareness) of their own voice, breath, body, etc., AS THEY ARE TALKING. Participants are encouraged at any time to inject into the conversation a statement of what they are thinking, feeling, experiencing, at a more nuanced, non-obvious level than usual. Nothing need be done with these statements by others, although they may wish to attend to similar things in their own experience. The conversation can (but need not) be ABOUT such things; it can try to follow a particular subject, although this can be difficult with all the "interruptions." In any case, in this exercise the conversation is always subsidiary to body/ experience/ context awareness which ideally we'll all be practicing at every moment (good luck to us!!).
Deep Listening Circle
We will start with a brief guided meditation to tune us into our bodies and surroundings. We will sit in a circle "listening" to our environment, our inner selves, Spirit, our voices, each other, the group vibes, etc., as we pass a crystal around and whoever has the crystal can speak, making an effort never to break the constant listening that they and others are doing. Above all, there is no rush in this circle. All speaking is done "from the heart" - whatever deepest place we can reach in the moment we have the crystal. If at any point during our turn we don't feel we're at a very deep place, we are encouraged to remain silent rather than speak from a shallow place. At any time, the leader may direct an individual's or the group's attention to a deeper or more conscious place, using a question, comment or chime.
Total Inquiry -- dialogue consisting only of questions
With silence as our starting point and background (default), we talk about any topic that comes up, but can only ask questions, not make statements. Participants are encouraged to make notes for later discussion, regarding things they notice about questions during the exercise. Many different types of questions will surface, including statements masquerading as questions, rhetorical questions, open-ended questions, questions that simply direct attention, questions that modify, overlap, or focus on some portion of another question, or link the issues of a previous question to another area of inquiry, etc. One thing we'll definitely explore is what relationship we can have to questions other than answering them.
Saying what's happening to us as a group
Once this exercise starts - with silence as our starting point and background (default) - the only communications permitted are sentences beginning with
and ending with a statement about "we" or "us" or "the group." Clarifying statements can follow, but only a few sentences at most.
"I sense us waiting for something special to happen here."
"I hear us talking about intellectual things. I'm wondering if we aren't ready to go to a heart place."
"I believe there is some fear in the room. I'm feeling it myself, but I'm suspecting it isn't just me."
"I hear birds outside, and the sound surrounding us."
The purpose of this ritual is (a) to see what happens if we sustain present-time group-level awareness for a couple of hours, and (b) to increase our sensitivity to the many varieties of group-related phenomena that can be attended to.
We will carry on whatever conversation seems to happen, but we'll do it with no "to be" verbs -- is, was, be, am, are, were. Those who use this discipline call it E-prime, a term which connotes to me "a more primal variant of English." Invented by General Semantics founder Alfred Korzybski, E-prime has a small but passionate following. We can expect certain phenomena to arise in our initial attempts to use E-prime, including:
- hightened consciousness of our words -- before and AS we say them
- a lot of humorous, frustrating, instructive communication blocks
- finding ourselves forced into our own experience of life, into the real connections between things and into more detailed articulations -- all because we can no longer make oversimplified abstract God-like declarations (like "such and such IS this or that"). For example: Since I can't say "This is a great day!" I have to come up with "I like this day" or "I found myself really engaging in life today" or "This weather makes me feel really good."
(NOTE: I just used E-prime to describe this session. Interesting exercise. You might want to try it.)