Mindful Sharing

Wise Speech is True, Useful and Kind

There are several psychological programs that have developed over the years to foster personal safety in group situations including the group norms in Alcoholics Anonymous and the protocols of Non-violent communications, Insight dialogue, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  The simplest version that I have encountered is called Dharma Sharing and it comes from the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a modified a version of the instructions.  ​During Mindful Sharing, we practice wise speech and deep listening.  It is a  special time for us to share our experiences, our joys, our challenges  and our questions relating to our practice.  By learning to share our  personal experiences, we contribute to the collective insight and understanding of the community.  

Sometimes it may be beneficial to let  sharing come from those who take the initiative to offer their speech  and at other times it might be beneficial to take turns around the  circle so those who may be more timid can share.  There is no obligation  to share at any time and it is completely acceptable to simply take a  breath, bring the hands together and bow to signal your wish to pass or  simply say ‘pass’.

Mindful sharing is not a time to engage in  theoretical or abstract conversations about concepts or texts but  rather, we speak directly from our own experiences.  We refrain from  characterizing the experiences of others, giving unsolicited advice, or  inserting ourselves into their stories.  By avoiding such “cross-talk,”  we honor and safeguard each individual’s sharing.  We remember not to  spread news that we do not know to be certain and not to criticize or  condemn things of which we are not sure.  We refrain from uttering words  that can cause division or discord.  Whatever is shared during Mindful  Sharing is held in confidence.

By practicing deep listening while  others are speaking, we help create a calm and receptive environment.   Mindful of our own inner dialog, we resist the impulse to agree or  disagree.  We can then bring our mind back to being present with the  person who is speaking.  In deep listening, our mind is open, curious,  and interested -- as though we were hearing this person for the first  time.  It is a form of listening that not only hears what is said but  also seeks to understand the whole person behind the words.

We  will resist interrupting others as much as possible because it will  allow us the time to pause to explore whether the interruption is  necessary.  If someone becomes uncomfortable or emotional during Mindful  Sharing, we resist the impulse to comfort them with words or by leaving  our seat.  The impulse to comfort another who is in pain is a healthy  and natural response.  However, it is important to recognize that these  actions can be motivated by the desire to avoid our own discomfort at  seeing someone else in pain more than the desire to comfort the other.   It is only when we learn to be mindful and are willing to be present  with our own discomfort that we can be available to comfort the pain of  others.  Validating eye contact and supportive body language are  appropriate. 

If a friend shares about a difficulty he or she is  facing, we will respect that he or she may or may not wish to talk  about this individually outside of the Mindful Sharing time.  By being  witness to community members, we support healing, joy, and the spiritual  growth of the individual and ourselves.