Option One: Get Connected to Other People
Take time this month to pay attention to your connections with other people. Notice all the times you receive something from someone or give something. Take the time to look them in the eye. Is the circle of connection large or small? Are you very well connected with a few people or have lighter connections with lots of people? Are the people you connect with connected to each other?
Draw a map of your connections, with thick short lines for close connections like spouses and thin connections for the grocery clerk you see every couple of weeks. Use different colours. What does your web look like?
Before meeting with your group, take some time to reflect on what you learned. Are you happy with your level of interdependence with others?
Option Two: Expanding Circles
Some people have experienced a deep sense of connection to the earth – becoming one – just for a moment – with the trees and sky around them. This exercise helps develop an expanded sense of self. Try to do this at least once a week, preferably in the same spot.
In good weather, find a quiet place to sit in a natural area. You could be gazing out at Lake Ontario or sitting in the woods in the Humber Valley or in your garden or on your balcony.
Get comfortable. Breath slowly and deeply.
Become aware of your body. Focus your attention on yourself.
Feel your feet on the ground. Feel your legs. Breathe into your diaphragm. Feel your spine, and your arms and hands. Breathe and let your body relax. Feel the sun and the air on your head.
Extend your awareness just beyond your body to the bench you are sitting on, to the grass or asphalt at your feet. Notice any insects on the ground or in the air nearby. Keep your attention loose and relaxed.
Broaden your awareness to nearby rocks, shrubs, water, trees. At the same time, keep awareness of the earth closest to you. Your gaze should be relaxed, meditative.
Let your mind wander but keep your eyes aware on all the life around you.
After a few minutes, thank the plant and animals with a nod or a blessing. Return your focus to yourself.
While this may simply be a pleasant experience, over time, you may find your sense of self dissolving into a sense of being part of all that is around you.
Come to the group prepared to share your experience of this connecting exercise.
Option Three: Meditation
Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is the inspiration for this visualization exercise. Try to do this meditation once or twice a week over the month. Does it affect how you experience the world?
Find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed. Settle into your body.
Breathe out three times.
See yourself holding a round orange tangerine that changes into a blossom on a tangerine tree.
Sense how the tree is bathed in the light of the golden sun and then covered with soft cool rain.
Notice how the blossom becomes a small green fruit that grows into the orange tangerine.
See and smell the tangerine in your hand.
Breathe out one time.
Imagine yourself peeling the tangerine and eating a piece of it, knowing that as you do so, you are being part of the sun, the rain, the tree, and all of the Creation.
Take one last deep breath and then open your eyes.