The Circle keeper is the person who facilitates the Circle. The word “facilitator” is not used because it implies a more formal role. More formal meaning the power of hierarchy is used instead of the power of inclusion. The power of inclusion means you are using interconnectedness, equality and respect. Interesting enough, the power of the relationship is a dynamic in bully behavior. Hmm, that would mean Circles are a nature counter-measure to bully behavior without even having to address bullying. It just can’t happen in a well run Circle, because the well run Circle is based on the power of inclusion. You can’t do inclusion without all being equal, including the facilitator/circle-keeper.
Circle-tator is my new word. I don’t like it because is could be a reminder of the word dictator, which is the opposite of a Circle-tator. I do like it, because I love tator tots. So tator may be in, Circle-tator may be not. My first ADD moment of the day!
The blog title is emphasizing the importance of practicing the skill of Circle-keeping. Get yourself into situations where you get to PRACTICE, before addressing a deeper emotional topic. My background is in therapy. I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling, did an internship at a student counseling center, was an in-home and private agency therapist. I worked with difficult families in the child protection and juvenile justice system. My caseload was seriously emotionally disruptive and violent adolescents, when I was introduced to Restorative Justice. There wasn’t much I hadn’t heard, from incest to jail rape, my clients had experienced lots of life’s harm. I walked with my clients through a boyfriend stabbed and dead, a ER visit for a rape exam. My education provided my a backdrop for counseling theories and professional boundaries.
I mention this, because when in Circle, people will share. The will be open with information that has impacted their lives. Not all impacts are warm and fuzzy.
So keep Circles as practice to develop your skills, then take on deeper issues. To keep a Circle KNOW inside and out, the core elements that make a Restorative Justice Circle. (read this, this and this). The Circle Core elements are from Kay Pranis – Peacemaking Circles, Little Book of Circle Process and Doing Democracy with Circles. Pranis, in Doing Democracy, gives us that Circles should be based on 2 things: Values and Reflection on Indigenous Teachings. Really take pause, and consider if you are connecting to Indigenous Teachings.
The six structural elements, (Pranis)
Use ceremony, meaning an open and a close, and intention. This is where you as the keeper need to explain the deeper value of a Circle for humanity, not just yourself. This comes from experience and understanding the shape and power of a Circle. By using a way to identify Values (paper plates exercise), and using consensus to agree to the guidelines of a Circle, you are on your way to being a Circle-tator.
With experience comes wisdom. You need to get Circle-keeping experience. I did it by creating Circles to keep. I found a woman in my community and we hosted a woman’s Circle. I set up a Circle for my teen daughter. You have to have a deep reverence, for the process.
To effectively and skillfully lead Circle, you have to be willing to take another journey. That is the journey to the center of your soul. You need to figure out who you are. However, liking tator tots is completely optional for being an effective Circle-tator.