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This page exists to provide materials that local groups can use for discussion topic ideas, learning aids, and guidance on building rituals, practices, and other activities useful for Spiritual Naturalists. If your group has its own materials, ideas, and other resources, please contact us and share them here so groups in other areas can benefit! In that way, this can be a growing body of resources over time.
– What is Spiritual Naturalism?
Format & Activity Ideas:
–Spiritual Naturalist Drumming
–Ritual for the Spiritual Naturalist
–Working Ritual with the Center
–Meditation Framing & Procession Ritual
–A Spiritual Naturalist Ritual Liturgy
-Poetry reading (Use your favorites or Supporting Members can access poems by members)
-Music (contemplative/meditative – see our multimedia page)
Session Notes from the Houston Chapter:
Session 1 notes: Complexity, Houston chapter (Word doc download)
Session 2 notes: Heraclitus, Houston chapter (Word doc download)
Session 3 notes: Chuang-Tzu, Houston chapter (Word doc download)
Session 4 notes: Stoic Physics, Houston chapter (Word doc download)
Session 5 notes: Buddhist Physics, Houston chapter (Word doc download)
Session 6 notes: Stoicism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Nature, Houston chapter (Word doc download)
The Good, Evil, Virtuous, and Vicious, Houston chapter (PDF download)
Tips for maintaining tone & atmosphere in discussion groups
One of the important parts of Spiritual Naturalism involves a change of tone. Expressing that tone yourself is one thing, but of course, these events will involve all kinds of people and things you can’t control. Here are some tips for maintaining a Spiritual Naturalist tone:
- Moderation Style & Demeanor: The first thing is to be sure you yourself are smiling, presenting a friendly and compassionate attitude, and are gentle, patient, and listening. This will help set the tone for everyone else.
- Staying on Topic: It is important to have a topic that you present early, and to moderate to make sure the group stays on that topic. When there is no topic, or when the group is allowed to stray from it for too long, this will invite opportunities for people to stray onto politics, personal feelings, criticism of other groups, and so on. At best, this can degenerate far from what we are all about, and at worst it can shift the tone of the event to an unpleasant debating atmosphere that is opposite to what drew people to the group. When people stray from the topic, gently interrupt and remind everyone of the topic and that we seem to be getting off topic. Then ask that person a specific question related to the topic to help them get back on it.
- State expectations overtly and early: It is a good idea to state clearly expectations and goals about the demeanor and style of interaction you are going for. Stress that people are expected to be tolerant, patient, and listening with compassion and understanding – that discussion should be in the spirit of sharing rather than debate. Despite making these things clear on your website, many attendees will miss this. We have some printouts available in these pages which can serve as guides and readables.
- Accept that you won’t please everyone: Despite our best efforts at being clear, and our kindest requests, some people simply will not ‘get it’, or they won’t want to. They may be looking for something else than they thought the group was about. This is ok, and they can leave if they like, but they should be told clearly when their behavior is out of bounds. You should be very willing to let people leave if that’s what’s best, rather than trying to please everyone.
- Keywords and Target Audience: Here is a list of the keywords or tags you can use when creating online pages. These keywords help to attract people with compatible interests and views. Be careful in adding other keywords or putting links to your group in places where the general makeup of the audience may not be a good fit for a Spiritual Naturalist group of this kind: Personal Growth, Meditation, Life Transformation, Stoicism, Philosophy, Ethics, Buddhism, Spirituality, Spirituality Personal Growth, Humanism, Naturalism, Pantheism, Sacred Ceremony and Ritual, Spiritual Growth and Transformation, Wellness.
On Welcoming Everyone and Tolerance
In the course of running this kind of group, it is inevitable that you will see many attendees who either do not understand what Spiritual Naturalism is, or they want to attend even though these are not exactly their views. Some of them see ‘naturalism’ and think this merely means ‘lovers of nature’. They may be New Age types, or people who believe in pseudoscience, etc.
The best way to deal with this is to always start with genuine kindness, compassion, and tolerance. It may be that many people who are not Spiritual Naturalists are still interested to learn about the practices we discuss and engage in, and may be benefited from them. If so, then we are helping people and this is a wonderful thing. They might eventually be persuaded to become Spiritual Naturalists, but this is entirely their business. We are not evangelical and do not tell others what they should or should not believe. So, even if they never change their views, sharing anything they find helpful is always good.
In our groups, for example, when it comes to their input they are welcome to discuss the topic at hand (which will always be a naturalistic one, assuming a naturalistic understanding). But when they veer into proselytizing anti-naturalist or supernaturalist beliefs, we will kindly bring them back onto topic and point out what naturalists believe (rather than talking about what we don’t believe).
A helpful way to look at it, because Christianity is so common and well known to many of us, is to consider what a good example of a Christian church might do. If someone were to show up at church and tell the others they are not a Christian, but would like to sit in on their service, they would likely be treated kindly and welcomed – but that doesn’t mean they will be giving the sermon. Nor does it mean they would be welcome to initiate a debate over whether or not being Christian is the right thing to be. This is because they would be in a Christian community there to discuss things from within a Christian paradigm – not at an interfaith event there to debate. Our events are not for people to meet and debate naturalists; they are for naturalists and therefore presume naturalism. Everyone is welcome to the table, but Spiritual Naturalism is what will be on the menu.
You, the Organizer
Building a group takes time and patience. Especially early on, it takes time to build up a large group, and even with a large group, you should only expect a tiny fraction of them to show up to any given event. Attendance will be sporadic and unpredictable. People will RSVP and then not show up without a word. And, you may experience many times when no one shows at all! But what is important to ever get the ball rolling is that there be at least one person (you) who will reliably be there for others to meet and talk with. So, you should have the general attitude that you will be going to this event regardless of whatever else happens. You can bring a book in case it’s a no-show. Try not to make negative judgments about this and simply stay the course. In time, more people will begin showing up and you will eventually build the group up. Patience, staying the course, and enthusiasm are key.
If you would like to improve attendance, the best way is to send out emails to the group a couple of days prior, reminding them of the event and enthusiastically tell them you’re looking forward to seeing them, whether they’ve come before or are newcomers. Sending personalized individual emails to the specific people who RSVP beforehand, and the people who came afterwords, can also help to build relationships and increase involvement. Social media can be very effective in finding new people, but be careful not to let the group degenerate into a ‘virtual-only’ group and keep the emphasis on face-to-face interaction, which is your main strength since only local groups such as yours can do it on a regular basis.