After we read a life-changing book, most of us tell our friends about it. Sometimes we bring it to a book group to discuss it with others. But how many of us record that conversation and share it online?
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Nate Bettger did just that with Bill Plotkin's Nature and the Human Soul. The director of community for Mandala Yoga Community in Bend, Oregon, Nate created podcasts from group discussions he organized through the center's weekly community gathering. Excited by Nate's unique way of sharing and exploring Plotkin's work, I decided to ask him a few questions for our blog. Enjoy!
Editorial Assistant and Submissions Editor
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What was the intention for your gatherings?
My intention all along has been to connect people into community. Part of this involves holding space for circle dialogues in which we can be challenged and introduced to material that will give us a framework from which to live into our transformation as individuals and community participants. Also, I personally found Nature and the Human Soul to be absolutely enlightening and wanted to share it with the community.
How did you organize the meetings?
The gatherings were part of our weekly Spiritual Integration classes held at Mandala Yoga Community. We had posters around town, but most participants came through word of mouth and personal invitation. We had a wide variety of participants: both men and women, from 20-somethings to 60-somethings. Some were there for the whole series, and some came periodically.
What was the format for the meetings?
We would start with a time of silence together, followed by checking in (saying what we were bringing to the circle in that moment and answering a question related to the material). Then we would work through a chapter or two of material with questions and lots of dialogue. Usually there was a challenge to take away with us for going further into the work.
What experiences did the participants have? How did the group work affect their lives and yours?
Many were very challenged. It was amazing to see the lights go on for people. Part of this stemmed from the material and part from the safety of the container we were able to hold. Some are still interacting with the material and have gone on to Plotkin's other book, Soulcraft.
One of the big gifts was that we now have a framework to think through the life stages within our greater community — a better understanding of how the stages interact with each other. Also, we have a better idea of where we are and where we might go as individuals within the community
What experience did you bring as a facilitator, if any?
I've done a lot of group facilitation in the past and have been listening, sharing, and connecting around community for three-plus years. I've also looked long and hard into how to support communities on their spiritual journeys.
What advice would you give to anyone considering starting a discussion group of their own?
Know the material, believe in the material, don't give up when numbers are small, pay attention to where people are at during the gathering, and be flexible with the schedule. Practice, practice, practice. Learn through trial and error. Every community is different.
We're sending a big thank you to Nate Bettger for sharing his experience with us!
To learn more, you can listen to the podcasts of Nate's group's discussions here and here, and visit our webpages for Bill Plotkin and Nature and the Human Soul.
We'd love to hear your stories of making change in the world. Visit our New World Library Facebook page to share links and join conversations with other readers and authors.