ASK QUESTIONS – MAKE FRIENDS – BUILD COMMUNITY
An initiative to encourage closer relationships and greater conviviality at USC
“Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”
– Cicero, Roman philosopher, 44 BCE
with TRACY EGBAS, USC CINEMA graduate student
Intimate glimpses into the lives of fellow Trojans
CLICK! Making Meaningful Relationships – a free non-credit course for all students – 5 sessions starting in early fall semester 2019 – Mindful.USC.edu to register. Grow in your ability to make and maintain friendships.
GET ON THE LIST – for notices about special CAMPFIRE events. Email firstname.lastname@example.org – subject: “campfires” .
An OP-ED by Dr Varun Soni, our Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, about the crisis of loneliness on college campuses.
CAMPFIRES is a movement to encourage friendship and community at USC – offering events, classes, speakers, and trainings.
All over campus, students are holding “Campfires”, in groups of two or three, or in larger gatherings. Anyone can host a campfire… here’s how: Put your your laptops and/or phones in the center of your gathering, playing this campfire video (no need to synch – the sights and sounds blends together). Then start asking each other questions. Choose from lists of great questions to ask here. They are all intended to move people from acquaintance into deeper connection with each other; they have no “right answers”. If a person doesn’t want to answer a particular question, they should feel no pressure to do so. They can pass, and say “I need to stare at the campfire for a while before I answer that question!” Keep going around the circle until everyone has had a chance to respond to the question without interruption or “cross-talk”. Then you can ask each other follow-up questions about the responses, again listening without interruption or cross-talk. Then the group moves on to another question.
Clubs, residence halls, sororities and fraternities, and professors in classes are showing the campfire video and using the questions lists in order to encourage personal sharing and “ice-breaking”. Student leaders are getting trained in the “arts of CAMPFIRES” in order to make their campus organizations more conducive to the formation of meaningful relationships among their members. (To set up a training for your group, email email@example.com – subject: “campfires training”)
A campfire gives people a focus while they hang out together. There’s something elemental about it, no? – going back to human pre-history. A campfire encourages intimacy, but allows for quiet introspection. The sight and sound of it are soothing, encouraging reflection – an ideal environment for connecting more and more deeply with each other.
So light a virtual fire, and gather round!
Here are some special ways you can gather for a CAMPFIRE:
Drum Campfires: A way to connect deeply – without words. Email the ORL about getting drums and help with facilitating a drum campfire.
Classroom Campfires: for times in class when there is personal sharing. Put the campfire video on the screen, darken the classroom, and encourage one-to-one chats or group sharing with students/profs.
Dream Campfires: Start a regular Dream Campfire in your residence hall or other setting on campus! Nighttime dreams are portals into the realms of the unconscious mind. Paying attention to them brings us to a higher level of consciousness, and can give profound guidance for our lives. This suggested format is based on the work of psychotherapist Jeremy Taylor : Participants are asked to keep a dream journal and to maintain confidentiality about what is shared in the group. Circle around the virtual campfire. First person shares a dream. Questions (not comments) for dreamer – from anyone. Questions should be “honest” – open-ended, not round-about ways of giving opinions or making judgments. Then 3 min of silent mindful meditation on the dream. Then, going clockwise around the campfire circle, each person answers: “If it were my dream, this is the significance it would have for me….” – then others ask that person questions. When circle is complete, first dreamer reflects on responses of the others. Next dreamer shares a dream….
Clearness Campfires: Ever feel bewildered in the face of a tough choice or confusing personal situation? You are in great company. And having some of that great company can make your decision-making process a lot easier. That’s what Clearness Campfires are all about. You write down the problem you’re facing – as succinctly as you can. (You may be unclear about how to describe the situation that is before you – but do the best you can.) You invite a group of people whom you respect to gather together as a temporary Clearness Campfire. You text/email them your problem ahead of time. You ask them if they are willing to follow these guidelines. Those who agree gather and sit in a circle for between 1.5 and 2 hours with you around a phone or laptop computer with the campfire video playing. They choose one of them to be the “clerk” and take simple notes, which the “clerk” emails to you afterward. They start asking you questions. Only questions. Honest questions for which they do not yet know your answers. Questions that invite your reflection. Questions that aren’t “leading” – questions that are not round-about ways of giving advice or opinions. Questions that invite answers that will lead to yet more questions that will invite answers that lead to yet more questions. There are times of silence, when only the campfire is crackling. Times for reflection, for letting questions and answers sink in deeper. When you are ready, 15 or so minutes before the agreed-upon ending time, you ask your circle to “mirror” what they heard and saw in your responses to their questions. Again: no opinions, no advice – just feedback about what they noticed in you as the Clearness Campfire burned. Then you shake hands with each of them and depart in soulful silence. What happens at the campfire stays at the campfire – complete confidentiality.