Three Activities We Might Run at Our Next Rationality+ Retreat

There is lots of context about who 'we' are, why I called it 'Rationality+', and what the 'retreat' is, but for the moment I'd just like to toss the activity ideas out into the community to see what happens. Happy to answer questions on any of the context or activities in the comments.

1. Tracking - The ability to follow how the components of a group (you, others, the environment) interact to co-create a group experience. The ability to observe how the group experience in turn affects the components. Like systems thinking for groups, in a felt-sense kind of way.

a) Activity starts off with a meditation on one's own subjective experience - observing how body sensations, emotions, and thoughts arise and dissipate. Watch with equanimity if possible.

b) Next - pair up, and explore how you might understand your partner's subjective experience in the same way that you just observed your own. Try observing their body language, your own mirror neurons, asking questions, making predictions/experiments. You can take turns or play with simultaneous exploration.

c) Each pair finds another pair to make a group of four. Taking turns speaking, see if you can collectively discover a 'group subjective truth' that feels true to all of you, and observe how it changes through time. What happens when you align on a living group narrative? Are you able to co-create a direction or meaning for this group? It's possible that this activity could extend into a 1hr+ exploration with groups actually doing things together, while maintaining cohesion.

2. Meaning-making - The ability to find/create subjective relevance in things. Weaving 'random things that happen' into a more salient 'narrative of things that are important'. I speculate that this helps with learning, memory, and allows you to shape your attention to a 'thing'. By learning to 'meaning-make', one could frame experiences in a way that lets you instrumentally get more of what you want (like feeling happier, doing healthier things, feeling that relationships are more rewarding)

a) In groups of three, two people have a conversation with each other. Preference is to avoid monologuing, reach for a more back-and-forth cadence. The third person is the narrator, who occasionally describes what is happening within the trio (maybe a cycle of p1, p2, p1, p2, p3; repeat). The narrator is attempting to track the group dynamic, and make sense of what is going on. They can contextualize things (P1 said X because of her background in Y, which felt validating to P2 because of Z), and they can attempt to shift the flow if they want. This is a bit improv-style, but should remain tethered to the subjective truth of the participants. [Now rotate roles]

b) For the rest of the retreat, notice how your inner-narrator is contextualizing things automatically. When you do - see if you can take over from autopilot, and manually continue your story in a way that feels accurate to you. This rudimentary practice may lead to new insights in meaning-making. Feel free to ask other people how particular events appear in their stories.

3. Focus on the silence - By directing your attention to the silence/negative space/emptiness of things, we can notice things that we did not before. Playing with your own volume can actually be a generative act in a group context - you provide the space for others to participate. This is a fractal activity that works on large or small scales, and may make certain insights possible.

a) Create a group jam session with real or improvised instruments. Practice for a bit with the group getting into rhythm - typically everyone will play loudly all at once. Now encourage people to pause their instrument when they feel like it, and to listen to the possibilities created by their silence. People may now be able to hear different instruments, or a solo may arise. Suggest that the group may want to play with various personal volumes and patterns, to see if they can now create more interesting music.

b) Break into groups of 4-6 to discuss the role of noticing one's own volume in life (the space one takes up), and try to have the conversation in the same participatory way as in the jam session activity. Each person has something to contribute, and each person should be mindful of drowning out others.

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Curious to know how these ideas land with this audience. I imagine the lack of context could cause pings of 'This wouldn't work', and hope that those thoughts could be replaced by the question 'What does the retreat look like, where these activities could be successful?'.

Showing 3 of 5 replies (Click to show all)
3Naryan Wong6moI agree with your comment - at a typical meetup this would invite raised eyebrows. For the retreat we're running, we pick the invite list carefully. Participants will have a baseline level of rationality, with about a third of participants with experience in circling, half with meditation, and a handful of 'context artists'. Never having run these activities before, it will be interesting to see how it works out :)

Sounds like an interesting crew. I'm also interested to hear how it goes!

1Naryan Wong6moHahaha love it!

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by Naryan Wong 13th Nov 20197 comments