One of the first documents that I read when I joined the Art of Hosting emaillist was a report made from the first Stewards Gathering, held in 2005 at The Shire, Nova Scotia, Canada. And I remember there was one paragraph that touched me deeply, which said that the circle is the mother of all other social technologies. I initiated an ongoing circle years before, and am in circles still (Women Moving the Edge). It gave me learnings so deep and wide!
Recently, Sept.'11, I organised a Circle Intensive with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea from PeerSpirit, which gave rise to some email exchanges on the emaillist that I found worthwhile to copy here.
Amanda Fenton sharing her experience:
"My experience has been to recommend more circle practice. I feel that if people can get that, the stillness, the deliberateness, the conditions for life to flow through -- then it is easier to take other practices to a deeper level."
And Martin Siesta adding:
"To this I would add that most AoH's are an opportunity to be exposed to some wonderful tools, but its not a "deep dive" into many of them. Because of a time limitation exposure to Circle is all too often an opening and perhaps an ending to the AoH gathering. That is unfortunate. For me, Circle is the "DNA" of AoH. Its deep listening with empathy and understanding without judgment. And importantly, it offers ways to work with "shadow". Shadow is the story or feeling that are not spoken individually and collectively. Its often projection of our own life stories and because in the work we do, we care deeply, its easy to feel hurt and angry. So as effective as many of these tools are, speaking from the heart in a container that makes it safe for the soul to speak and to check in regularly is the DNA.I've been fortunate to been in Circle and Advanced Cricle practicum with these fine ladies. It's a great gift to our global community that they are out there and that they have a commitment to intergenerational community.
Then Rainer was quick to reply:
And offers of more circle practice:
I am not trained in the Art of Hosting. As a trainer/facilitator through the Ojai Foundation’s Center for Council Training, my lineage is traced to Zimmerman & Coyle’s The Way of Council. It’s been my practice for twelve years. I read these posts about circle fundamentals with interest. I am sometimes asked by a local organization to facilitate at their World Café’s. I find many facilitators asking questions such as, “do I participate” or “what happens if someone does not want to speak?” To me, these are foundational questions of strong circle practice. It has led me to the conclusion that all of the amazing, creative practices that have and are arising require a fundamental grasp of strong circle practice. It is vital in creating a safe container for the work which will ultimately allow these practices to thrive and grow. On my shelf sits The Way of Council by Zimmerman and Coyle and every book written on circle by Christina Baldwin. After twelve years and many trainings both taken by myself and offered, they are still my “go to” resources.
Blessings on all of your work.
And some more, by Rose Gordon:
Hello all. I am happy to see discussion of Circle on this elist. I am not trained in AoH, but was trained in Council with Jack
Zimmerman, Gigi Coyle and Roshi Joan Halifax in the mid 90's and began my active work with Circle then.
I have used Council/Circle with dying people and their families, hospice volunteers and staff, grief support groups, groups sharing
their feelings/thoughts about particular topics or events, an Interfaith Gathering at Auschwitz and for 8 years in Restorative
Justice Circles with juvenile offenders, their families and victims.
I find Council Circle particularly suited to eliciting heartful and grounded participation around emotionally charged experience- in a way
that allows for relationships to deepen or develop. It also allows us to hear ourselves, often in a new way.
One piece of Council that I find essential is that Council Circle encourages going beyond the words/ideas/agenda with which one might
have entered the Circle ...allowing something new to emerge.
Council does seek to create concensus, but allows for and recognizes the arising of a "cohesive group wisdom" which is a harvest of
diversity, where the sum is greater than the total of the parts. A vision arises that includes everything expressed-the many facets of
the whole-in ways that go beyond language into another texture of understanding.
People are invited to speak deeply ONLY from their own experience or perspective. There is no philosophy to support. No right way to view
Slowing down and breathing is a foundational piece of Council. What happens when people breath through the moments when perspectives differ
(sometimes radically)and then relax enough to allow those perspectives "to stand" has been an honor to behold.
In my experience the questions used in Council stay "close to the bone"; silence is participation and the Circle weaves a tapestry of
presence that is palpable. In Circle one is invited to listen with one's whole body and receive both what is spoken and what is unspoken.
I find that Council/Circle takes us to our belly, allowing us to respond from a place beneath personality,from a place that is both
empty and full. I am obviously passionate about this approach. I believe Council energizes people in a different way than how i sense AOH energizes
them, and I know that there is a definite kinship.
I have always enjoyed the skill and energy and commitment of AOH
practioners as expressed on this list and all the work that you take
into the world.
I hope to someday be part of a "tent of meeting" where we can sit and explore weaving these practices together.
Gratitude to you all,
Thank you all. This conversation underscores and affirms why, when Christina and Ann come to my community of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada next September 20-14, 2012, we are convening it as a circle practicum. Many in my community have been trained in AOH and as Martin offers, are exposed to a variety of methods, practices and tools, but time limitations preclude diving deeply into any.
I, too, have described circle as the foundational practice - the DNA (love that phrase) or, as Christina and Ann offered, the "pattern holder" for the other practices. So our my intention in calling this event, is to invite people to dive deeply and yes, feel circle in our bellies, bodies, beings (thank you, Amanda and Rose).
Aside from reading their material, which for me, too, are regular "go to" references and reservoirs, it is their understanding and articulation of shadow in circles that led to a pivotal conversation with Christina several years ago. Now as I study, really live Theory U, presencing, as I sit with myself and others, through deeply complex and often disturbing times, I am grateful for this opportunity to present and study with the two women who have made circle their life's work and service.
Thank you, Ria, for casting the stone in our pond that began this rich rippling out, and Helen, for the photos that bring it to life.
I just want to add here, briefly, that for me Circle Practice is so important - not only as foundation of the other methodologies - but even as important as core practice in any hosting team. I have lots of thoughts on this; and experience too, but that will be for another time.
Maybe others have ideas about this too?
Thank you for sharing your passion with us, Franziska! It seems to me that you are speaking out of the Mystical Tradition of the Church as did Hildegard of Bingen, Pierre Theilhard de Chardin and Meister Eckart. You are in good company! If you don't know them, I think you would appreciate their work. I love the light you shine on Circle work, may we carry it with such a clear intention.