Cup of Wisdom
Being an Effective Cup of Wisdom Host
The Magic of Cup of Wisdom
In the context of Cup of Wisdom, the journey is the goal. As David Bohm teaches, “through dialogue a new kind of mind begins to come into being based on the development of common meaning… People are no longer primarily in opposition… rather they are participating in this pool of common meaning, which is capable of constant development and change.”
Dialogue is people listening and talking together. It is people intentionally engaging in a shared exploration towards greater understanding, connection, and the possibility of transformation. Dialogue is not concerned with winning arguments, coming to conclusions, solving problems, resolving conflicts, achieving consensus—or anything other than sharing ideas.
When such communication happens it can be truly magical, providing opportunities for dissolving boundaries and opening wellsprings of understanding and compassion. It involves participants working together to understand the assumptions underlying their individual and collective beliefs, the blind spots and incoherencies these beliefs often mask, and working to free themselves from them. These are moments of grace, whose frequency increases as we practice listening more deeply and exploring more openly with each other.
To read more on the Art of Dialogue CLICK HERE
The first thing a host needs is guests. You can’t have a potentially life transforming conversation by yourself. So, the first question you might ask is this: How do I get people to come to my salon? The answer is simple: Ask them. Pick a date, time, and place that works for you. Then invite five friends to join you. Once you have these five, ask each of them to invite one other person to join them and attend the salon. This will give you a group of ten (eleven if you count yourself; twelve if you ask another person as well) where everyone knows at least one other person, and where everyone can meet at least one person whom they don’t know.
You can invite people face–to–face, over the phone, or by text or email, but don’t forget to remind them a few days in advance of the salon and even the day of the salon. Provide directions to your place of meeting. You may choose to meet in your home, but if you prefer not to use your home, ask a local church, synagogue, mosque, temple, library, bookstore, community center, or coffee house if they can provide you with space to hold the salon. Most are happy to do so.
Cup of Wisdom Kit
At the heart of Cup of Wisdom is The World Wisdom Bible. At each gathering you ask people to read a section of The World Wisdom Bible and talk about it. That means everyone needs a copy of The World Wisdom Bible, and the best way to guarantee that everyone has a book to read is to provide it to them.
Once you have a salon scheduled, email Frank Levy at the One River Foundation: email@example.com. He will ship you a Cup of Wisdom kit containing twelve copies of The World Wisdom Bible and twelve Cup of Wisdom mugs.
What he will not send you is an invoice.
The Cup of Wisdom kit is funded through the principle of Pay It Forward: responding to the kindness and generosity of one person by being kind and generous to someone else.
For more information on Pay it Forward CLICK HERE
Keep the Kit
Let’s assume you are going for the whole 13 (one gathering for each section of The World Wisdom Bible) meetings. You have to expect that not every guest will make it every time, and that some may drop out after a while. That’s fine. It’s not a reflection on you. Life gets in the way of people doing even things they love to do. You can always invite new people along the way. But it does mean you should hold on to the mugs and books at the end of each gathering. At the end of the eleven gatherings (or however many you host) you can invite people to take their mug and book home with them, but not before: they get lost; people forget to bring them to the meeting; and a shortage of books and mugs makes the salon less that optimal. So, hold on them until the end.
General Salon Guidelines
While there is no such thing as a typical salon the following guidelines have proven successful for others. Feel free to adapt them to the needs of your group. The basic template for a ninety minute salon is as follows:
General meet and greet: 10 minutes.
Take a few minutes to explain how the salon runs, what chapter of The World Wisdom Bible people will be reading. Remind your guests that the books and cups are a gift from strangers and invite them to donate to the One River Foundation so we can send a kit to another salon. Hand out the books and cups, and invite people to get something to drink. [Food is also a good thing to have on hand, but make sure whatever food you offer doesn’t stain the hand and get on the books.]
Silent Meditation: 3 minutes.
Invite people to settle into their seats, close their eyes, and just breathe. If someone has a silent meditation or prayer practice invite them to use it, but explain that we are simply using this time to center ourselves so that we can engage with the texts we are about to read with open minds.
Begin at the beginning
The World Wisdom Bible is part of a larger effort to share the Perennial Wisdom at the mystical heart of the world’s religions. The World Wisdom Bible offers each Cup of Wisdom participant an opportunity to engage these ancient texts, some of which they may already be familiar with, in light of the 4 Essential Points of Perennial Wisdom, gaining new insight into the nature of the Divine, however named, and life itself. As such, it is important that each Cup of Wisdom community spend time during its first meeting to orient itself to this amazing journey through The World Wisdom Bible by reading and discussing “A Note on God” and the “Introduction.” You may actually discover that the group wants to spend more than one session working with “A Note on God” and the “Introduction.” Likewise, each Cup of Wisdom session should include a reading of the introduction to the specific chapter to be discussed that session.
Silent reading of the assigned pages in The World Wisdom Bible: 20 minutes.
Don’t expect people to read an entire chapter in this time. Rather invite them to browse through the chapter and focus on what speaks to them. People may be drawn to different teachings and that will make the conversation all the more interesting.
Sharing initial thoughts with one or two people: 15 minutes.
Not everyone is comfortable speaking in a group, but most people can easily speak to one or two people. This portion of the salon allows everyone a chance to speak without putting anyone on the spot. Pay attention to see that everyone has an opportunity to share, but do not force people to do so.
General conversation among the whole group: 40 minutes.
Remember a salon is about conversation, and while conversation is more about listening than speaking, it’s your job to see that no one dominates the conversation, and that no one is left out. We suggest you use a talking stick: an object that the speaker holds for a few minutes and then returns to the center of the circle so someone else can pick it up and speak. No one should speak for longer than three minutes at a time. Keep track.
Closing silence, announcing next meeting, saying goodbye: 5 minutes.
(Yes, this adds up to 93 minutes, but don’t be too much of a stickler over the time.)
FAQ for Hosts
- How do I know what to talk about? While the texts often invite responses without prompting, we provide a series of questions appropriate to each chapter of The World Wisdom Bible in the Cup of Wisdom Leader Guide we will send you. Offer one or more of these if needed, and see where they take people.
- What if I don’t know anything about these texts, or Perennial Wisdom, or religion in general? A Cup of Wisdom salon is not a class in world religions, and no one should expect you to be literate in any or all of them. The whole point of Perennial Wisdom is that it is at the mystic heart of every religion and as such transcends the specifics of any religion. Let the texts speak for themselves. If people ask about specifics regarding one religion or another, admit that you don’t know, and remind them that what we care about is their understanding of the text at hand and not how it is understood in the religion from which it comes.
- What about crosstalk? We are used to reacting to what others say and engaging in a back-and-forth style of conversation, trying to make (and win) our point. In authentic dialogue, however, listening is the key. The goal is to see how thoroughly you/the group can listen to and understand each other’s views and experience. In dialogue, whatever anyone says has to be listened to and allowed to stand just as it is. Questions may be asked to help clarify a speaker’s idea or thought. There is no such thing as a ‘wrong idea’ but there may well be differing and even contradictory ideas. While some ideas may be in conflict, allowing them to stand side by side broadens and deepens the conversation.
- What do I do if someone is dominating the conversation? Remind the group to speak only when holding the talking stick and that no one is to talk for more than three minutes. No one is allowed to speak a second time until everyone who wishes to has spoken once.
- What if things get heated? Congratulations! Passion can lead to transformation. Just take care that the conversation is focused on ideas rather than personalities.
- Is there ever a time for the host to intervene, as opposed to merely participate, in the conversation? Yes, if the conversation seems flat, if people merely stating their positions without personal elaboration, you may invite speakers to elaborate for a moment by asking the question, “What in your life leads you to hold this belief?”
- What to do about rambling? If someone is having a hard time making her or his point, ask if you may paraphrase what they are saying, and then ask them if you on the mark. This should help them clarify their thoughts so they can express themselves more effectively.
- How do I keep people focused? The focus of a Cup of Wisdom salon is The World Wisdom Bible. You aren’t inviting people to share their life stories, or their reactions to current events. You are asking them to share what comes up as they read the teachings in The World Wisdom Bible. So, if the conversation is straying, bring it back by repeating the text under discussion, and asking people to respond to it.
- What if no one says anything? Be patient. Silence isn’t bad, and if you allow the silence to ripen, someone almost always says something and the conversation continues. It isn’t your job to entertain people. If no one wants to talk, then no one will talk. If you feel very uncomfortable with silence ask one of the questions offered in the next section of this guide.
- How do I bring the salon to a close? Announce the end time at the beginning. If you gather at 7:30 PM, for example, let people know that you will end at 9:00 PM. If you have a timer that chimes at a preset time, set it for your end time and forget about it. Just leave yourself a couple of minutes at the close for silence; to thank people for attending and sharing, and to remind them of the next gathering.
- Don’t forget to collect the cups and books.
- What if people want to take the books and cups home with them? Urge them not to. Explain that reading The World Wisdom Bible in advance will remove the immediacy of the conversation, and taking cups home only makes it more likely that they will forget to bring them back to the next salon.
- What if the salon grows and I need more books and cups? We love this problem!
Email Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will help you out.