Think of Circles as a ‘magic container’, transforming the contents and the people contributing.
A diverse group of people recently gathered for Circle training. We had college and elementary teachers/professors, campus & restorative justice program staff. It was a very fulfilling training, lots of enthusiasm was generated and lots of ideas came forward for Circle application. I love that part of it. I warn people when I am training or teaching “if you ask, ME as question, the answer will be A Circle”.
Proactive Circles, for community building and belonging. Creating a culture in a classroom, school or community. Developing relationships with coworkers or even consensus on a mission statement. Circles are a container – strong enough to hold strong emotions and sensitive topics. There are so many aspects of being in the Circle. I’ll highlight each from a wholistic perspective.
Physically: Seeing each face, having us face faces, not someone’s back. There is no back of the class, or person at the front. No sliding in late un noticed. The energy of people all facing the same way is magnetic to me. I also try to consider the physical placement of the Circle, a place free of distractions is helpful. I let someone schedule a room for me recently. It turned out we were in a glass, fishbowl like atmosphere and it was almost like the outside sound was being piped in. There was heavy foot traffic outside the room and I kept thinking as people walked by they were going to come into the Circle. So consider the container around your Circle, make sure you are in a place that has minimal distractions.
Emotionally: In our Safe Teen Driving Circles, we have students fill out evaluation forms. One of the open ended questions is: “what did you like least about this experience.” The students report that seeing people cry, or crying themselves was the least liked. I don’t mind that response, because it lets me know we are touching hearts. When I see people sharing from the heart, and sometimes choke up, or speak with watery eyes, I get moved. I admire the courage, I’m touched by those powerful emotions. I’m proud to sit in Circle and see others hold the edges for someone expressing themselves. Emotionally there is a safety in Circle. The process is predictible. The basis is respect. The playing field has been leveled for us.
Mentally: For me, “neutral mind” emerges in Circle. I don’t have to think about my reaction or response. I am listening for understanding. I stop weighing things like the risk or benefit to me personally. I also let go of positive or negative thinking. It’s about the person speaking, about their perspective. I’ve been in Circle enough to know, that I need to listen to each person before me in the Circle. Early on, I used to formulate the response in my head, or select the story I would share, then by the time I heard from everyone ahead of me, I had something different to share. Now I settle in and let my mind be open.
Spiritually: For me, this is the aspect of being connected to greater purpose. What am I here to do? (that question to me explains, spirituality) I listened to a self proclaimed atheist, she said “this is it, heaven and hell”. Yet, I know she is committed to changing the world for the better, she takes action on issues of peace and justice. It struck me that we don’t have to be connected to what happens to our physical bodies in a way that means we live our life in a reverent manner. I am always trying to do better, to be better. Generally I think most people strive towards that. I believe in the greater connectedness between people and all beings actually. Circles evoke a spiritually connection because we are striving to do better when we gather in Circle. Somehow each individual experience in Circle, is connected to the ‘greater good’.
Circle training really fills my cup. I miss the people I spent the last two days of last week with, it’s Tuesday, that was 4 days ago. I can’t wait to run into them again, there is nothing like time in Circle to build a powerful connection.