The talking circle has been used in many ancient cultures in different forms, as well as in modern culture. It is a small and simple, but powerful way to weave community, to invite ceremony into our lives, and supports peaceful, loving connection to others.
Over the last years I have organized, held space, and participated in many different types of circles. Women´s circles first of all. I have held the more traditional type talking circles, where we have no theme, but let the common theme naturally arise through our sharing. I have also held circles with themes. I have organized open circles for everyone to join, and closed circles for small groups who commit to come together over an extended period of time. Circles invoking feminine Archetypes that follow the cycles of a woman´s life journey, her monthly cycle, and natures yearly cycle, and also circles to mediate problems between people. My latest Full Moon women circle -variation is a very beautiful, connecting and uplifting monthly experience, where each time another woman is given the space to step up and share her wisdom, strengths and talents with the rest of the circle in different and dynamic ways.
Here I will share some of my insights and experiences of talking circles.
All Equal - All Unique
Although I have played the role of organizing and holding space, which has been a great passion of mine over these years, my participation in the circles has been the same as everyone else's. The symbolism of the circle, with no beginning and no end, and with nobody in a position of prominence, implies equality among the participants. It is this aspect that I love most about circle work. And although I may organize the circle, I am an equal participant, just like any other.
To be equal to each other brings safety, it gives us humility as well as pride. It serves a healthy self-esteem when we see ourselves mirrored in the experiences of our brothers and sisters. And sometimes we don´t mirror, and can marvel at the different expressions that Life offers us, and feel inspired by the uniqueness of the other.
The talking stick
In most circles we use a talking stick. It has heard many stories by now and has taken on an energy of it´s own. Whoever holds the stick close to his or her heart, has the space to speak, or even be in silence. No one interrupts. This gives freedom for the speaker that we don´t often find in daily life. It also helps the others to practice deep listening.
In some circles the stick goes around the circle, being passed on. In other circles we go "popcorn-style": meaning that when the speaker is done, she places the stick in the middle, and whoever needs to "pop" can pick up the stick.
Listening from the Heart
The most important part of the circle is not to talk, but to practice deep listening. Listening from the heart means that we try our best to listen with openness, so that we can start to understand the others´experience in life. We keep in touch with our own body to check how we feel inside. That way we listen with empathy, with interest, without the need to judge, without the need to mentally go over what we want to say next. It can be an extremely powerful experience for a speaker to be witnessed in this empathic way. We listen each other into being. We soothe each others pain through our understanding silence, and we lift each other up through our silent joy and celebration of each other.
Speaking from the Heart
When we are passed the stick we try to speak from our heart. This means that we try to speak our truth in a gentle way, letting the words flow out, but limiting ourselves to our own lived experience; our emotions, feelings, ideas or needs. Rather then talking about someone else´s experience, or general ideas of right and wrong, exclaiming spiritual truths, giving advise to others, etc.
This practice helps us to express our authenticity, and to get to know ourselves deeper. Through our own words we often find the answers that we were seeking. No one needs to heal, help, change or advise another, because we trust deeply that each one in the circle knows her own answers, carries her own Medicine, and if anything, we "help" just by sharing our own story, by showing up as ourselves. By daring to show our vulnerabilities and also our strengths.
Someone can ask for advise, and in that case anyone is free to engage. However, in general, we trust the process of the other.
Circles as a way to form and strengthen communities
In my experience, I have come to feel part of my community through sitting in circle. I was a nomadic traveler and my backpack was my home for many many years, I was part of a transient community moving with the wind. But it was not until I started to grow roots in one place that I could really feel my place in a community. And this process came about especially through connecting to others in circle.
When you take your place in a circle, especially over time, you start to feel that there is a community of kindred souls on your side, who look at you with compassion and understanding. Supporting you on your way upwards, supporting you to express more of yourself, and holding up a safety-net in times when you are integrating difficulties, suffering or grief.
Circles and cycles
Circles can be used specifically for finding more connection to nature. I usually hold my circles either around the full moon, or the new moon. Depending what is needed for that particular circle. I found that the practice of gathering in circles in general, also connects us to Mother Earth and the Great Spirit (please fill in your own names here, the Universe, God, divinity, ... ). Partaking in circles, over time, has helped me see more clearly the cyclical nature of life. Life and death, beginnings and endings, up and downs, a continuously changing process like the seasons of the year... but like the circle there is no real ending that is not also a beginning.
The potential for transformation
A circle is simple and humble; it´s just a circle. It is not pretending to be anything else. And in that simplicity it is profoundly powerful.
To sit in circle is not a therapy. The circle simply supports the inner journey of each participant, to provide a safe space to take off our masks, to show up as we are, and to find our own inner teacher. To take a step closer to our own authenticity. It is my belief that each step closer to our authenticity, is a step closer to serving the world we live in. In my experience, that process is and has been transformational.
Coming full round
Although we all keep track of time, and try to share the time equally among the participants, usually a circle just flows. It flows and flows, and the ending time is perfect. What was shared was perfect. The number of participants and the different people that attended were perfect.
We have connected to ourselves, and to each other, answers have been found, wisdom has been shared, gratitude can be felt, hearts have been united, magic is palpable, synchronicity is alive.