Until now, we discussed practices of rediscovering our wisdom by individuals. It is instrumental in order to improve the quality of our lives and, by doing that, help the society at large. However, its impact on the current, increasingly dangerous world situation is limited. Even if many of us would incorporate wisdom into our everyday life, any meaningful way to change it requires a well-coordinated group effort based on wisdom.
In turn, individuals participating in such a group effort need to be prepared not only by their individual practice, which is a necessary prerequisite to a successful group practice. For this reason, several earlier chapters were dedicated to the individual form. Now, it is time to expand it to the group wisdom practice beginning with its basic format.
The other reason I decided to do it is the increase in the speed of changs of global consciousness. At this point, the direction of the change is uncertain and unstable, which gives additional motivation to emphasize the importance of wisdom as a new social attitude. So the following proposal of the group practice appears to be timely.
A brief reminder of the individual basic practice
The main characteristics of the group basic practice remain very similar to those of the individual one. Therefore, it may be useful to remind its key points.
The overall purpose of the Wisdom Practice is opening the access to our innate human wisdom blocked by our attachment to opinions, views and beliefs accumulated by several ages of social and economic stratification. The rediscovery of wisdom would change not only our individual lives but our relations with the environment. By environment, we mean both human society and other forms of life and even inanimate surroundings. Our relationships would become based on appreciation, altruism, cooperation, creativity, and coloured by humour.
To accomplish that, we use the two-prong approach: our direct experience and intellect. The purpose of the experiential aspect of the practice is dramatically lowering the quantity of useless thoughts. They drain the energy of our mind and, as a rule, reinforces the attachment to our harmful beliefs, views and opinions.
The basic practice is direct and experiential. We remind its key aspects, which are also used in group practice, and here is a description of the preparatory aspects of the basic practice.
„Choose some pleasant, relatively quiet and simple space, free from too many decorative objects, which may become a source of distractions. Assume a comfortable, natural, upright sitting position making sure that your body is relaxed. Keep our eyes open, so, like the rest of our sense organs, they can receive perceptual input. The emphasis is put on naturalness and comfort. There no need for some particular positions (like crossed legs) or mental techniques, unlike it is sometimes required in psychological and spiritual meditation practices”.
It is recommended that the initial introduction to the actual practice is done by a well-experienced practitioner. Her or his state of mind somehow (there is no generally accepted neuropsychological explanation for this phenomenon) affects other participants. It helps in bringing their minds to rest.
Now, the basic instruction: „Effortlessly rest your mind. When you become aware that instead of resting, you are busy thinking, remember that these thoughts are the natural dynamic reaction of your mind. Let go of the effort of thinking and return to the state of rest. Do not attempt to block thoughts – it would require an effort that contradicts the effortless character of the practice. Continue this as long as you feel the resting state is fresh, light and effortless.”
In the earlier chapters on the presentation of the Wisdom practice, you may find out how basic training can be expanded onto all everyday life situations.
Format of the basic group practice in the same place
The simplest form of group practice is to physically be together in one place, where the maximal distance between participants permits seeing and hearing each other. There may be an alternative way of practice via internet communication facilities, which we will discuss further on.
The sitting arrangement depends on the spacial restrictions, but the best way seems to be to sit in the form of the circle. This form was, and occasionally still is, used by aboriginal tribes while they were making group decisions. It permits an easy way to see and hear each other. However, there may be other reasons why the circular arrangement was used throughout the ages. Perhaps it also helps in transmission some form of energy of mind which is present during the state of rest. I have to add that the last reason is purely hypothetical, and no proper theory or experiments, as yet, confirm that. However, if that is impossible, something similar will do.
Independently of technical aspects like the sitting arrangement, it has been observed that group format makes the practice more relaxed and more enjoyable. The size of the group varies, but if we want to use the size of the paleolithic and aboriginal groups as guidance, it should be no larger than 20 to 25 persons. The other reason for a not too large number of participants is that the practice is followed by a discussion in which everyone should have an opportunity to actively participate.
The group practice requires some form of coordination. The simplest way is to designate one of the participants to become the coordinator. Her or his role is to signalize the beginning and end of a practice session. Ideally, such a person should be relatively well experienced in this kind of practice. It helps in sensing the „atmosphere” of the group to decide when the session should end. If all participants are on a similar level of experience than one of them may volunteer, or the group will choose the best way to proceed is, for example, each member takes a turn to lead the practice.
Group format introduces new elements into the individual experiences of participants. First of all, the fact that the presence is not done individually but in a group adds new challenges. A participant is aware of not being alone, and its attention may be drawn towards others. Secondly, she or he may hear some noises produced by others, which can become a further source of distractions. However, usually after a short time, all of that seize to be an obstacle and situation changes: the presence of other practitioners becomes a source of confidence and stability.
Basic group practice via the internet
At present, there are increasing possibilities to meet via such an app like ZOOM or similar. It opens the door to new challenges and opportunities. I must admit that I have had very limited experience with this kind of group practice. Still, I hope that the readers may be inspired to explore and find the form which works for them.
There should be, among the participants, at least one person sufficiently experienced with practice to become „focal point” of a session. Such a person should lead the practice beginning with providing initial instructions. Later on, the face of this person should be visible on the screen all the time, „emanating” the stability of the state of resting in wisdom. The number of participants in this form of practice is less critical than in the direct one, because of the issue of each participant to being visible and „hearable” is entirely different than while practicing directly. It depends on many factors such as the kind of app used, the quality of communication channel or size of the screen of the device, which is used by a participant.
Discussion after the practice
After the session, the participants may wish to share their experience or ask questions concerning the practice. It is often one of the most important benefits of the group’s basic practice. The first reason is apparent: often among the participants, some are more „seasoned” and can respond to the question on the base of one’s own experience. Other, one is that questions may provoke the phenomenon of group intelligence and, as a result, the issue may be comprehended deeper. Also, it is helpful to create an atmosphere of altruism, cooperation and humour.
The importance of verbal interactions after the session of basic practice must not be underestimated. During that period, the participants can establish closer relations. If that happens, they may use the discussion as an opportunity to talk about their life situations, the problems they face, etc. Consequently, in a natural, experiential way, they learn how to discover the six wisdom attitudes and apply them to their life issues.
Furthermore, the coalescence of such a group may naturally lead to more close social relationship. It may form a base to evolve in such communities as cohabitation, workers cooperative, wisdom society nucleus if the participants so decide.
In the case of long-distance practice, similarly, like in the direct one, after the session, there should be provided an opportunity to have the discussion. In such a situation, the person leading the practice or another well-experienced can coordinate the discussion. In this case, her or his role is to select a person who is going to ask a question or make a remark. Then the coordinator of the discussion provides the questioner with an opportunity to be heard and seen by everybody by assigning microphones and being visible. On the base of my personal experience, I suggest that the person leading and coordinating the session should not, at the same time, act as a so-called administrator. There should be agreed earlier who will be playing the role of co-administrator, relieving the coordinator from performing necessary technical actions.
The basic group wisdom practice is an entry point for extending it in a manner similar as it is done in the case of the individual one. However, it will have to be adjusted to accommodate its group character. It offers challenges that produce interesting opportunities for applying the group creativity to find forms that suit the group.
It is important to focus on the decision-making mechanism because we are conditioned to use forms developed during thousands of years of social stratification. This will become the topic of the next chapter in which will be discussed the issues related to unanimity in making decisions.
Further on, there will be a more in-depth discussion of using group practice as an opportunity to form a community based on the principles of Wisdom Society.