Nearness • sample discussion guide

River of belonging



2 minutes
Welcome to this Nearness gathering. We’re going to start with a short body and breath meditation together. If you’re doing this for the first time, it might feel a bit strange; that’s okay! What matters is that you’re trying something new.

The Reader prompts you to settle into this experience by reading the following words:

I invite everyone to get comfortable in their seats, and, if you’d like, feel free to close your eyes.
Taking a slow breath in… and a slow breath out. Allowing our bodies to settle, bringing our attention to the experience of breathing.
Breathing in, inviting a sense of friendliness towards our experience… Breathing out, inviting a sense of calm and ease.
Noticing now what else may be present — perhaps particular sensations in the body, feelings or thoughts in the heart and mind. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, can we allow what’s here to be as it is? Can we attend to our experience with care and love?
[Pause for 1 minute ]
Now together taking a final slow breath in… and a slow breath out. When you’re ready, feel free to open your eyes and rejoin the group.
Thank you.


5 minutes

The Reader invites everyone to light a candle to mark the sacredness of the time that you’re entering.

Reading the Agreements

The Reader invites someone to read the Nearness Agreements aloud, to center how we want to show up for each other in this shared experience.


We gather to honor our deepest humanity:

  • Listening to each other with an open, tender presence;
  • Showing patience as we attempt to articulate our innermost intuitions;
  • Cherishing the beautiful resonance between us when we share our struggles;
  • Practicing humility by resisting the urge to give advice;
  • Honoring our shared silence as an antidote to the world’s noisiness;
  • And opening ourselves to something larger than us, which inspires us to love others, ourselves, and the world around us.

Though we travel different paths, may we find comfort and hope in the gift of each other’s company.


The Reader invites folks to reflect for a moment in silence on a line in the agreements that they want to try to practice today — and then to write that line down in their journals.

Choosing a Timekeeper

The Reader asks for a volunteer to keep time while people share. Using a watch or the timer on their phone, the Timekeeper will hold up a hand when someone has reached the end of their time for sharing.



7 minutes

After the Timekeeper is chosen, the Reader reads the following words:

Today, we’re going to practice an exercise called The River of Belonging. We’ll start by taking seven minutes to do a short creative journaling practice, and then we’ll take some time to each share our River of Belonging sheet.
This exercise helps us visualize our life’s journey, and particularly, how we’ve experienced connection and disconnection so far. Here are the steps to create one:
  1. Draw a wavy line, with an arrow at the right end of it.
  2. Starting with your birth on the left side, write down at different points along this “river” when you felt either deep belonging to something larger than yourself — whether family, neighborhood, nature, nation, the world, the divine, or something else! — or when you felt particularly isolated or disconnected.
  3. If you like, you can draw instead of write — whatever will help you share a little of your story with one another after you’ve finished this reflective exercise.
Sample river of belonging

share and listen

36 minutes

After the seven minutes are complete, the Reader reads the following words:

Thank you. Now let’s go around and each take four minutes to share key moments from our Rivers of Belonging. What would you want your small group to know about you today? Feel free to share only what feels comfortable to you.
After someone speaks, let’s allow for a few moments of quiet. At first, the silence might feel awkward, but it will help a slower, more reflective conversation to emerge. Then let’s take a minute or two for one or two people to thank the person for sharing and comment on anything that resonated.
When we respond to each other, let’s remember not to give advice, because what we need from each other in a group like this isn’t advice, but rather the simple healing that comes from a caring, tender presence.

offer gratitude

5 minutes

Next Week’s Reader

The Reader then asks for someone to volunteer to be the Reader for next week.

In Closing

This week’s Reader reads the following blessing:

Here we are, together.
In each other’s company,
we’ve reflected on our stories,
and we’ve begun to explore how they connect us.  
Whether it’s been difficult or a delight,
that’s okay. That’s the journey.
So, as we close, let us give thanks with three deep breaths.
The first — to give thanks for our bodies that can take this breath;
[Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.]
The second — to give thanks for each other’s supportive presence;
[Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.]
And a final breath to give thanks for the spellbound moments of love and beauty that sit at the center of our lives.
[Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.]
Until we meet again, we are grateful. Thank you.


The Reader asks everyone to extinguish their candles.

Nearness, all rights reserved.
Site by Maybe Ventures