Hosting Study Groups
Part IV – Conducting the Class
Preparing to Conduct the Class
Introductory Letter to Participants
Before your first class, contact everyone in your group via email and tell them the details of the meeting and purpose of the group, as well as a little about the chapter you’ll be covering. Encourage them to read the chapter and listen to the audio of Sat Shree’s revelations of the chapter before coming to the meeting.
It is best to listen or watch Sat Shree’s recordings on the Gita or Mother Book in advance of facilitating a study group. As you do so note the beginning and ending times of those segments that appeal to you or which you feel would be helpful to share with the group as a way of prompting discussion and self-reflection. These can be 5 to 15 minutes long.
Download Attendance Record
In the facilitators page on the website download the document called Attendance Record for Study Groups and fill this out for each group each week. This information will be used only within New Dharma. With this information New Dharma can keep new participants informed of the Tuesday night calls, satsangs, intensives, and retreats. With so many of Sat Shree’s programs being broadcast on Crowdcast now, it will be very easy for new participants to become more involved. Please send this information to email@example.com as well as to Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conducting the Class
Once everyone is present and signed in, take a moment to look at each person individually in the room and say WELCOME or NAMASTE. This will bring everyone together with you and can be a powerful entry point.
Just prior to the room opening up for the discussion period there may be an awkward silence. This is where holding the space is required. During this time simply sit together in silence as a group; this allows the intent to build in the room. It is also where you establish your authority with the group. Notice what arises for you but do not be afraid of the silence; sometimes several minutes may go by before someone is moved to speak. Once the discussion begins it may take off and be vibrant. Be sure that no one person dominates the discussion. If this does become a challenge you can set a time limit of 10 minutes for each person’s sharing if you feel that is needed. You are not “leading” the group, but you are facilitating what arises for people in the context of the purpose of the group.
After your welcome and give an overview of the program, open with a meditation, describing it as a “silent sitting.” You can suggest that the participants focus on their breath and sit as quietly as possible. This should be for between five and ten minutes.
For the first class, as well as when new people join, invite participants to share their names and what their intention is for being here. Go around the circle, passing the recorder from person to person.
Set the Intent
It is important to dwell a bit on the intent or purpose that the person is bringing to the room. Sat Shree uses the term “purpose” as the motivating principle that lives each of us if we know it or not. So when you people speak to this you can both get a sense of the person but also move the room into alignment with the program.
Let people know that although the recordings of the study groups will be confidential, they will be heard by Sat Shree and at times by others for training purposes within New Dharma.
Introduction to Sat Shree
At the first group, as well as when new people join, it is helpful to share your own experience of working with Sat Shree. Direct people to the New Dharma website if they want more information.
Go over the Guidelines
These honor the purpose of the program and help establish the ground rules asked of all who participate:
- Honor what each person has to share.
- It is best to speak from your own experience or understanding.
- No crosstalk. Only one person talks at a time.
- No interrupting a person’s sharing.
- No feedback unless the person asks or gives permission for it.
- No arguing or debating.
- It is okay to share what comes up for someone after a person shares. However, the sharing should be limited to the experience of the person speaking.
- The facilitator may ask questions of the person sharing to clarify or support the person.
Content of Class/Listening to the Commentary
At the beginning of the discussion on the particular chapter of the Gita/Mother Book it is helpful for you to give an overview that includes its main points. You may also share your personal experience in regards to the chapter. For example, in Chapter 1 you could talk about your own dejection experience.
Playing a Clip or the Entire Audio
At first we recommend you play a 15 or 20 minute segment and then ask for responses from the group. I believe a portion of 15 or 20 minutes in length helps the participants to become familiar with the material. When the group is more familiar with the book and material, you can play shorter clips.
Discussion after Listening to Sat Shree’s Commentary
After the group has listened to Sat Shree’s commentary on a part of the chapter, there are a number of ways to open the space for sharing.
- Share your experience with the section just listened to.
- Ask people what the recording brought up in them, or what they resonated with.
Ending the Discussion Period
At the very end of the discussion, say something like: Does anyone have any ending comments before we have our closing? This allows for a natural conclusion to the discussion.
Ending Silence and Stillness
To end our time together have a 5–10 minute period of sitting in silence and stillness. This allows all that has been shared to settle in.
After the sitting you may want to have an informal period where people can ask questions or share. You can provide drinks or snacks if you wish for anyone who might want to stay after. This helps build group cohesion and can support people in staying engaged with the study group.