There are likely as many ways to hold a book club discussion as there are book clubs. The following guidelines for how to go about reading and studying the Phoenesse books are just suggestions. Adopt the ideas that feel compelling for your particular group. And also keep adapting to what works and what doesn’t.
Groups, by design, will bring up our work. This is true for families, groups of co-workers, neighbors and book clubs.
Order for reading
The order for reading these books is very flexible. Allow for inspiration!
With the exception of Word for Word, all Phoenesse books can be read online for free on the Phoenesse website. Keywords can be read on The Guide Speaks website. All Phoenesse books are also available in ebook and paperback formats from online retailers. And 11 free audiobooks are available on both the Phoenesse website and from major podcast providers.
Here is one suggestion for the order in which to read Phoenesse books, but feel free to skip around based on what appeals most to your group.
GET A BETTER BOAT: Trustworthy teachings for difficult times (listen to audiobook)
A collection of 33 spiritual essays that offer guidance for navigating the challenges of this new era
DOING THE WORK: Healing our body, mind and spirit by getting to know the self
What it looks like to do this work of self-finding, with personal experiences from Jill Loree and Scott Wisler
FINDING GOLD: The search for our own precious self (listen to audiobook)
Enlightening teachings about the journey to finding ourselves
WALKER: A memoir (listen to audiobook)
Jill Loree’s personal story of her lifelong efforts to use a difficult childhood as stepping stones for great growth
PEARLS: A mind-opening collection of 17 fresh spiritual teachings (listen to audiobook)
Practical teachings on a variety of interesting spiritual topics, offering pearls of wisdom we can use everyday
HOLY MOLY*: The story of duality, darkness and a daring rescue (listen to audiobook)
Fascinating teachings about our journey out of darkness, including explanations about the Fall and Plan of Salvation
BLINDED BY FEAR: Insights from the Pathwork® Guide on how to face our fears (listen to audiobook)
A collection of 9 Pathwork teachings that illuminate the difficult but unavoidable work of facing our fears
LIVING LIGHT*: On seeking and finding true faith
Jill Loree’s first collection of posts that reveal various aspects of the journey of finding faith
SPIRITUAL LAWS: Hard & fast logic for forging ahead
A high-level look at some of the basic divine laws we must understand and align with to awaken from duality
KEYWORDS*: Answers to key questions asked of the Pathwork® Guide
A collection of Pathwork Q&As that offer the potential to completely change your world view
BIBLE ME THIS*: Releasing the riddles of Holy Scripture (listen to audiobook)
Answers to questions asked of the Pathwork Guide about the meaning of various Bible stories, myths and verses
SPILLING THE SCRIPT: A concise guide to self-knowing (Read Part 2)
An overview of the main teachings from the Pathwork Guide that exposes the script our Lower Selves are following
BONES: A building-block collection of 19 fundamental spiritual teachings (listen to audiobook)
Core teachings that are the foundational framework for doing this work of personal healing and self-discovery
AFTER THE EGO: Insights from the Pathwork® Guide on how to wake up (listen to audiobook)
A collection of 17 Pathwork teachings that enlighten our understanding of the all-important process of waking up
GEMS: A multifaceted collection of 16 clear spiritual teachings (listen to audiobook)
Spiritual teachings from the last 50 lectures that illuminate many facets of the process of finding unity
THE PULL: Relationships & their spiritual significance (listen to audiobook)
Valuable teachings about what’s behind significant relationships and their powerful ability to surface our deep inner work
WORD FOR WORD: An intimate exchange between a couple of kindred souls
An exchange of emails and text during the first month of Jill Loree and Scott Wisler’s relationship
HEALING THE HURT: How to help using spiritual guidance
How to use these teaching to help others, working as a coach, therapist, healer, or Helper
*These books talk more in-depth about topics that some may consider more religious, or Christian. For those who feel challenged by this, consider reading these books with an intention to shift preconceived ideas that cast Christ in a bad light.
The pace for reading these books will depend on your group’s appetite for reading and developing themselves, and also frequency for meeting. While many book clubs meet monthly, groups interested in diving deeply into spirituality and personal healing may want to consider meeting every two to three weeks.
In general, it is suggested to read these teachings at least twice, as they reveal more and more each time we read them.
Read entire book
The following books are right-sized for reading the whole book in a monthly book club
- Holy Moly
- Bible Me This
- Spiritual Laws
- Living Light
- Doing the Work
- Word for Word
- Healing the Hurt
Read book in sections
These books may be best read in sections
- Get a Better Boat (11 essays, out of 33, at a time)
- Keywords (4 sections, out of 8, at a time)
- Spilling the Script (read Part 2)
Read 1-3 chapters at a time
Each chapter in these books is a rewritten Pathwork lecture; ideal for savoring and studying in more depth
- Blinded by Fear
- After the Ego
- Finding Gold
- The Pull
Hosting a book club
Having a host, or leader, for each gathering is recommended. For an established book club, this aspect has probably already been worked out. For a new group, here are some guidelines to consider. Note, the duties of a host or leader will vary depending on the size of the group, the group dynamics—for example, whether you already know each other—and what feels most comfortable for book club members.
If one person feels called to lead the group and is skilled at doing so, then that’s your leader. Also consider that it may be helpful for each participant to sit in the host chair periodically. This gives a good sense of what is required of a host and may be a good growth opportunity for participants.
If your book club enjoys sharing a meal together, that’s great. The suggestion is to allow a separate time for eating from the book discussion. If you plan to discuss the teachings and also go more deeply into working with them, consider hosting your book club in a private setting.
It is important to not serve or consume alcohol when studying this material, especially if your group wants to delve in more deeply and begin to apply the teachings to personal experiences. While a “social lubricant” like alcohol may seem like a good way to help participants open up, it does not help people learn to do so in a healthy, organic way. Moreover, it does not help people learn to find and set appropriate boundaries, and to take appropriate risks in sharing honestly.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for any host will be managing time. First, respect people’s time by starting on time. Do not wait for latecomers. If gatherings start on time, people may be motivated to arrive on time. The host should be seated and ready to start five minutes before the stated start time. Lighting a candle can be a good indicator that the start is imminent.
Second, keep the discussion moving by learning to manage the amount of time each person shares. The host may need to learn to gracefully step in (see About Rambling below), or maybe use a bell or hand wave to signal it’s time for someone to start wrapping up.
Third, be sure to end on time. People have other obligations—including family, work and sleep—and we want to respect that. A good length for a book club gathering is 1.5 hours. A start time of 7:30pm allows people time to eat dinner before arriving (assuming there is no shared meal), and then adequate time to travel home and prepare for bed.
The host can get creative in how to open each discussion, but always plan to keep the opening short. Some suggestions include:
- Say a short invocation, either something from memory, like a short prayer, or from what spontaneously arises related to the topic of discussion
- Read a short, meaningful poem
- Have each person draw a card from a bowl and read the word on the card (pre-printed cards are available from bookstores)
- Go around the circle and invite each person to share two words—literally two words—that describe how they are feeling in the moment
Suggested format for sharing
It is expected that each person has read the selected Phoenesse book, or book sections, and spent time considering the teaching(s). This is especially important when reading 1-3 chapters at a time. Encourage participants to read the teachings early in the time period between book club gatherings, so that the teachings can come alive in their life and be explored.
One suggestion is to go around the group three times, with an intention to deepen the discussion with each sharing. Note, you can share “popcorn style”, allowing each person to speak when they feel ready. The downside to this approach may be a lull between speakers. In that case, the host can call on people to move things along. Or you can invite someone to volunteer to go first, and then go around the circle in either direction.
First round: 30 minutes
Ask people to share about something they read that felt particularly important or impactful. What resonated deeply? Invite people to convey this teaching to the group in their own words. This is a good way to help us really understand the teaching and make it our own.
Allow each person to finish speaking without others interrupting them or adding their own comments. Feel free to pass a talking stick around—only the person holding the talking stick is free to speak—if that is helpful. People may want to jot down notes as others speak. Then, after everyone has shared, allow the group to have an exchange of ideas, impressions or perspectives.
For some groups, this may take up the entire time and be as far as they want to go. We will have a richer experience, however, if we begin to apply these teachings personally to our lives and share our experiences with others. If this is our intention, the host or leader may need to indicate when it’s time to move to the next round.
Second round: 45 minutes
In this round, participants take time to share something personal that relates to the teachings being discussed. This is a chance to share honestly about some disharmony or conflict—something that troubles us—without oversharing or rambling.
As the group develops its container, members will naturally feel more comfortable sharing more deeply. If we are willing to wade into the waters of honesty, the group will become a valuable resource for the members. As the host, notice if people are holding back from revealing anything personal, or alternatively, jumping in and sharing too intimately.
Think of the story of the Three Little Bears. We want to find the “just right” place of revealing ourselves in a way that is helpful and appropriate, while also pushing out the edges of our comfort zone a bit.
Third round: 15 minutes
If there is time, consider a final round for sharing any profound insights that have come up. It’s best if these are for ourselves, but they might also be for someone else. Note, however, that this is not an open invitation to give others advice.
Holding hands in the circle is a nice way to close. But it may feel too intimate for some groups, and post-Covid, many may prefer to avoid this level of contact. As a no-contact option, have each person hold their hands out in front of them, with thumbs pointing left. Hold lefts hands over the right hands of the person to the left. This allows energy to flow clockwise around the circle.
The host may want to remind everyone that holding people’s personal sharing in confidence is an important part of building a healthy container. If it feels right, ask the group to say together:
“What we say here, what we hear here, when we leave here, let it stay here.”
Consider periodically spending five minutes before you close to talk about what feels most alive for your group.
It’s common for some members of a group to be reluctant to talk. By paying attention to this, the host can help draw these people into the discussion, either by calling on them or inviting their perspectives. It’s equally common for some members of a book club to take up more airtime. Encourage such members to allow equal time for everyone.
It can also be hard for a person to know when to stop talking. This is where the host has an important role to play. When we notice that we no longer feel connected with what a person is saying, this usually indicates that the person is rambling and has lost their connection with themselves.
The host should then step in and ask the person to pause. There will likely not be a natural break for this, so the host will just need to gently interrupt the one speaking. Then ask the person talking to check in with themselves: “What is the essence of what you want to share right now?”
Some groups may encourage anyone to speak up if someone goes off topic or rambles. The whole group should understand that this is being done to help the group stay coherent and engaged. For it does not serve either the person or the group when someone rambles.
The leader or host will always have a co-leader, which is the group itself. In a healthy group, the members of the group are looking out for each other. They not only offer their attention when someone else is speaking, they notice when someone is somehow disrupting the group.
At times it may be helpful for group members to speak up when someone’s behavior is somehow affecting them in a negative way. At other times, it may be better to just stay present with the person and not jump to judgment or blame. At all times, whenever we feel negatively affected by someone else, our work is to look within and try to understand why we have gotten triggered.
Groups, by design, will bring up our inner spiritual work. This is true for families, groups of co-workers, neighbors and book clubs. Challenging dynamics are not necessarily a sign that the group is functioning poorly. In short, a lot goes on in a group, and it’s all good fodder for exploring the way we relate with others and also with ourselves. Use everything that surfaces in a book club as an opportunity for personal growth.