Sitting in Circle
The circle is a safe and supported place from which to speak our truth. Within the circle, each person sits in his or her own circle that no one else can enter unless bidden. This means if someone is crying, we must let them cry. We do not try to comfort them. When we say, “It’s ok. It will be allight," or we make noises of support we are pulling them into our circle. When you say, “It’s ok” you are introducing the idea that something may have been “wrong” when actually it is ALL alright. And when someone is deep into speaking his or her truth and tears come, noises of comfort create a self-consciousness that stops the process of cleansing and healing that the tears have begun.
Because of the way we have been taught to be "good" listeners, it is difficult to listen to someone speak without giving feedback, but we all must try so that the speaker’s energy is not pulled out of their circle and into yours. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes when you speak, because we unconsciously respond to nodding heads or glazed over eyes and edit our speech without even knowing.
I think the "seeker's path" is about arriving at a place, a bottom, where will and ego aren't big enough to serve the thing that you are after, which is truth. So you have to give up trying to control things. You attend to them. The difference is major. The path is about a larger, more mysterious context, which makes things scarier and more con fusing, but it also makes beauty possible. Truth, like beauty, is not ultimately in your power, it is larger.
-Tom Jay, from Heron Dance
The circle will be the container for our truth. At times, our truth is our silence. Sometimes there are words. It is important to honor your experience by courageously being where you are at. Being witnessed while experiencing and expressing our truth is a power-full experience that infuses our personal evolution with courage and clarity, that is why it is central to this particular type of circle experience.
At some point during the circle you will receive the “talking stick” or any item that symbolizes that it is your turn to speak, all you need to do is pause and listen to your heart. It may take some time to quiet the mind. Take some deep breaths and wait. Don’t try too hard to hear, just be relaxed and receptive. And then honor what arises by speaking of it. It is your time. Sometimes nothing comes. It is ok to pass the stick without talking.
Remember that there is nothing to "do" to "get" in this experience. There is no right or wrong. It takes time to hear the messages in our heart because it does not speak the same way the mind speaks. It begins with feeling into your body. If you don't know what to say, tell us what you feel in your body and where. Focus your loving attention on that part of your body and feel what happens. What obscures our connection with heart and our essence is rooted in the unresolved emotions and trauma we hold in our bodies. Speaking your truth in the sacred circle has power that we cannot understand. It gives us access to what has been hidden. It can set dreams into motion. It can clear away old fears and bring in new strength. Suspend doubt and imagine the circle as an amplifier of your intentions.
Nervousness and discomfort will arrive! Welcome them both as invitations to look kindly at yourself and others. We are trained to fix ourselves and others at the first sign of discomfort. But often it is signal that something is happening; you are approaching deep things you usually protect. Approach these fears if they come and listen to whether it is the time to look at them and/or share them. The feelings of fear or anxiousness mean you are stepping down into something deep. Honor that. This group of loving souls may be a good place to look at the deep places.
A words about tears: Your tears are a gift to others. The heart does not care how it is broken open and moved outside its protected rigid place. It could be the beauty of a sunset, a baby’s smile, or it could be someone’s grief. Tears are a release for you and others. Please allow yourself to follow where the tears lead.
When our hearts are open, magic happens. Intuitive wisdom comes calling, creativity flows, our presence becomes a force for healing, and the very air in the room becomes charged with possibility.
While one person is speaking the rest of the circle is witnessing. This is a different orientation for us. We are raised to be good listeners who lean in, show care and attention and nod in agreement. We are trained to express empathy and provide reassurance. None of this applies in witnessing. It is not your job to understand. When we try to understand we tend to come up with answers for the speaker; we tend to finish their story in our minds. Our logical minds want to make sense of it all. Our logical mind does not like mystery or ambiguity. Being present means honoring the mystery of the other person.
Your job is to simply be present and open hearted. All that means is to relax your mind and your body and imagine a pure, safe place for the speaker. Imagine you have the power to envelop them in a soft white light. Just breathe and be witness. Do not judge your wandering mind. Just gently notice and nudge yourself back to witnessing. Your mind takes breaks and scenic vistas.
It is difficult to remain present throughout an entire session of sharing. You will become quite tired if you try to be a “good listener” throughout our time together. Allow the words and energy to flow through you. Imagine the flow as water or pure white light, washing through you as the words of the speaker come and go.
The key to witnessing is to stay 70% - 80% in your own experience. 20%-30% holds awareness of the speaker. Close your eyes when you first begin to witness so you can maintain that balance. With practice, you can hold it with your eyes open, gazing at the speaker softly. You will be amazed at how long you can witness when you practice this.
Respect everyone’s circle of power.
Try not to interject affirmations, encouragement or comfort. Listen in silence.
When you have the talking stick let your heart and soul inform your words.
Try not to practice what you will say as the others are talking.
When it is your turn, take the time you need to meditate and listen inside you.
If no words come enjoy the power of the talking stick in silence and then pass it on when you are ready.
Witness as best you can, but do not judge your wandering mind.
The ideas of witnessing and truth-telling are not new. Elements of these two practices exist in many different approaches in our clinical counseling world and spiritual traditions. The ideas evolved within me through participation in different circles and circle trainings and exploration of many different spiritual traditions and psychological approaches. I began to offer these tools as a way to meet my own needs for evolution, to move beyond a deep sense that I had no tribe, that I had no place, no voice, no sense that within me was a unique and valuable expression of Essence. By offering it to others and experiencing it with others I discovered that most of us ache for the same things: to be seen, to be heard, and to feel the beauty, clarity and passion of our own essence.
This process is ongoing, and so this approach evolves, but the basic precepts remain the same. I honor the many other people who offer this or some form of this process, blessings to all who dedicate their lives to this process of unfolding into Essence.