Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing

  • Have an international story festival. Each member of the group shares a short folk tale from another culture that gives you a fresh insight on life. It might be something heard while traveling or found in a book at the library.
  • What values do you think are most useful in breaking down the barriers of suspicion and fear of strangers? What does your religious tradition say about the treatment of outsiders?

Imagery Exercise

The ability to empathize with other people, to identify with and understand their situations, is an important part of the spiritual practice of openness. This exercise is adapted from a longer version in Staying Well with Guided Imagery by Belleruth Naparstek.

Position yourself as comfortably as you can and take a couple of deep, full, cleansing breaths . . . Now imagining and sensing a place where you feel safe and peaceful . . . you look out in front of you and see a screen . . . and you become aware of a human form beginning to appear on it . . . someone you want to understand better . . . And you see that, undetected by him or her, you can softly and easily enter the screen to walk around this person and have a closer look . . . And now for the sake of your own learning, for just a short while . . . sliding past the boundaries and slipping into the body of this other person, feeling what it is like to be in their body, looking down and seeing their clothing, seeing out from their eyes what the world looks like. . . . sounds like . . . feels like . . . as you breathe their breath . . . feel their feelings.

And now, very gently wishing this body goodbye and moving back into your own body, feeling grateful for your ability to move so easily here and there, you step out of the screen, back to your peaceful place . . . and coming back into the room whenever you are ready . . . knowing that you are better for this . . . and so you are.

Journal Exercises

  • Review these questions: How available are you to others? How interested are you in people, especially those quite different from you? How flexible are you? Do you usually think you already know how things are going to come out? Are you willing to try something new? Then write an assessment of your own openness. Be candid about both your strengths and your weaknesses in this practice.
  • Make a list of out-of-the-ordinary things you would like to do. Brainstorm the wildest new experiences you could have to open your mind. Choose one to follow up on this year.