Call to Become Present
As participants arrive for each session, there will be the inevitable chitchat, pleasantries, and catching up. We don’t want to discourage this, as it is very important toward building a close group. On the other hand, we want to be respectful of people’s time, and accomplish what needs to be accomplished in the time allotted. Therefore, at each session start time, it will be helpful to have an explicit signal that the session is beginning. Some groups use an audio signal of a pleasant chime, others use the visual sign of the lighting of a candle, etc.. Feel free to use a signal that works for you, but please use it consistently to start each session. Following the signal, please take a moment or two to encourage the group to turn off the outside world (especially cell phones!), pause silently for a while, and relax. We all need to let go of the stresses of the day in order to focus and be present in the group.
Except for the first session, all of the sessions start with a time for discussing Epiphanies. This is the opportunity for those that wish to share their progress over the last week with the group—what they thought of when reflecting on the Questions for Discernment and what the results were from any of the Exercises. Since the course is designed to open the participants to recognizing and embodying HECK throughout their daily life, a great measure of the growth of the group is to never seem to have enough time for Epiphanies. That is OK. Other than leaving enough time for the TED sessions, feel free to allow this discussion to run its natural course.
Epiphanies are a time for individuals to share their progress, but it’s also a time for individuals to not share if they do not wish to do so. We are all in different places in our lives and we all have a different capacity for opening up to others. A humble individual does not play the game of one-upmanship, nor does an empathetic group put a member ‘on the spot.’ As a facilitator, your job is to allow everyone to be heard that desires to be heard.
It will be important for the facilitators to have previously watched the TED talks before each session, especially for the anchor facilitator who should be watching body language and measuring the reactions of the participants during the group screening. The TED talks are not selected to be controversial, but everyone has their own emotional triggers. Some of the TED talks are very inspiring, but some will also bring up negative emotions. People may have very strong reactions to them; be aware and prepared.
Please be cognizant of any issues with participants with hearing loss. Asking the group if it would be helpful to turn on the closed captioning can go a long way toward helping those with imperfect hearing feel welcome while also being respectful to those that prefer no captioning. Note also that the transcript for each TED talk is available online and can be printed and given to those that might want or need a copy. Please print those out and bring enough copies to the sessions for those that may request them.
Make sure to allow enough time to view the TED presentations during the sessions. It is important that the TED presentations be viewed by the group collectively as a shared experience. If participants are unable to attend a session, please encourage them to catch up by emailing them the Participants Notes for the missed session.
If your Epiphanies section is repetitively going long, you might be tempted to regularly skip the in-session viewings in favor of home viewing. We would strongly discourage this practice as watching the TED talks at home will not have the same impact as watching them together.
Following the TED talks is a discussion period. It is best to allow anyone who has an immediate or urgent desire to say something to get it out. From there the discussion should largely be allowed to go where it will. Two general ideas should be discussed after each video, so that participants can visualize the path in front of them:
What rings true from this presentation? With what do you disagree? (It is OK to disagree)
What do these videos have to do with being Humble, Empathetic, Compassionate, and Kind?
This is the time when you as facilitators will need to work the hardest maintaining balance. You will need to keep the discussions active but not feel the need to break the silence yourselves. You will need to make sure that everyone is able to share that wants to but not feeling pushed to share more than they desire. You will need to listen and contribute as a participant but place the participation of the others ahead of yourself. Most importantly, you will need to model Humility, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness in your leadership of the group. It’s a lot of work, but that’s why there are two facilitators. Facilitators need to be good teammates and help each other out.
If the group gets ‘stuck’ without the ability to keep the discussion going, it may be worthwhile to ask one of the Questions for Discernment from the Homework to encourage the group forward. The Questions for Discernment are meant to lead individuals in a general direction based upon the content of the video (see the Session Notes for more details). You may find that the presentation takes your group in another direction. Either is fine as long as the discussion stays ‘on the path to HECK.’ Your job as the anchor facilitator is to keep people from staying too far off that path, while recognizing that the path is quite wide.
Once the discussion from the video is concluded, please hand out the Participant Review Notes for the session. These review notes provide URLs to the videos so that the participants can review the videos again as they desire, and homework in the form of Questions for Discernment and Exercises.
Questions for Discernment are for ‘pondering’ throughout the week. Participants should be encouraged to set aside a few hours between sessions to reflect upon these questions. There are no ‘correct’ answers to these questions but pondering them privately, and journaling thoughts about them, will greatly enhance the fullness of the experience of this course.
Also in the Participant Review Notes is a set of Exercises. These are exercises that Participants may choose to perform in the week before the next session. The exercises range widely in both the commitment level required by the participant and in the challenge to get outside of one’s comfort zone. Please make it a point at the end of each session to encourage the participants to tackle at least one of the exercises in the upcoming week, reminding them that they will get out of the course what they put in. You may also remind them that they can always choose from exercises from previous sessions as well, if none of the current exercises suits them.
Finally, in the Participant Review Notes, are one or more additional TED Talks, which are provided as ‘Side Trails’. These are offered as excursions into related topics and ideas to each week’s subject matter. Journeying out on the Side Trails is purely optional, but is another opportunity to observe and practice HECK on a intentional basis.