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Group Practices: Silence

At each Wall Street Dialogues meeting, once everyone was seated around the table and we were ready to begin, we observed a minute of silence. People were invited to let their focus go soft, or close their eyes if they preferred. This practice allowed the participants to disconnect from the busy-ness of their day and from the projects, conversations, and concerns they’d been engaged with moments before. It was both a time to reconnect with themselves, and to become more present and connected with the others in the room and the reason for being there. It moved the group from the superficial level of greetings and “catching up” conversations, into the deeper sense of connection that was so important to their time together.

I used this practice at the beginning and ending of each section of a staff team-building and strategic planning retreat I facilitated for a faith-based non-profit organization. At a practical level, the participants found it very helpful for bringing their full attention to the task at hand, and then for digesting what occurred. The retreat actually took place at a monastery, which observed a Great Silence each day from 9 pm until after breakfast on the following morning. The group found that spending so much time in silence built a non-verbal sense of “who we are” to complement all the words and ideas being shared. At the end of the retreat, the group decided to experiment with spending the first part of each workday in collective silence, before beginning their meetings and phone calls.

SOURCE: Beth Thoma Robinson, Ph.D. See Beth's Profile

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