My First Circle — A Story by Karen Doyle Backwater


The Circle Way Newsletter is monthly. It’s loaded with good. Story. Tips. Invitation. Connection to community. Just sign on to get it — for perusing, or to accompany a good cup of tea, or to guide your practice of convening.

This month (August) features a story by Karen Doyle Buckwalter. Karen was a participant in one of the online classes that Amanda Fenton and I hosted earlier this year. Karen is thoughtful. She’s committed to questions that shape her applied use of circle. She’s committed to supporting circles, to using circles, because, well, it just makes a big difference.

Karen’s “First Circle” was focused on the importance of self-care (in rather complex and demanding times). I love Karen’s inclusion of this line from Brianna West —

“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake,
it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”

In the way that I know of Karen, I imagine she has a lot that she could offer by way of guidance to people. She could offer some pretty good and helpful answers — she is a social worker and psychotherapist by profession. But Karen’s point in hosting the circles, three of them, was to convene the space in which participants, including herself, could be wise and thoughtful together. The Circle Way is after all, a container for such exchange to happen. It’s an organizer that helps us lean in with honesty and wisdom to find what is among us, all of us, rather than just isolated and individual forays.

I love Karen’s overarching questions for her three Saturday sessions.

  1. “What are three things you are grateful for? What do you need in your life right now to thrive?”
  2. “What part of you is calling out for healing right now? What brings you joy?”
  3. “What was most meaningful for you about our Circle and what will you take with you?”

It’s simple design. It’s powerful interaction. Thanks Karen. Read her full article in The Circle Way Newsletter.

Circle is the root of most of the convening work I do. I’ve often said, if you want to get better at all of the participative methodologies, go deeper in circle. This sentiment and practice continues to grow in me.

Join, yes, please, in the offerings. Or stay connected globally with others, growing in applied use of circle. For self care. And for a pile of other things that matter.

Traditional Lands

Thanks Amanda Fenton for this photo, a sunset taken last week near Noosa in the Sunshine Coast area of Queensland, Australia, traditional lands of the Gubbi Gubbi. Photo within photo, frame within frame. Sunset after a day of convening The Circle Way.

I’m learning much these days about traditional lands. Reading stories and books. Leaning in to the reality of “settler” that is in me and in my history of family.

Stan Grant’s “Talking to My Country” is one of those books. He’s a Wiradjuri man, a journalist by training, that writes of the history of his people in Australia as settlers and colonizers came. “We were not an empty country,” he writes, countering the story of 17th century discovery, and the denial of 2,000 generations of local people. That’s 60,000 years!

Robin Diangelo’s “White Fragility” is another book. Diangelo takes on the systemic nature of racism, what has been born of privilege and power systemically to advantage whites and to suppress people of color. Yes, it’s challenging reading, as I begin to identify more as white in race (rather than as the norm that is not considered race). Racism isn’t just about rude people in rude and outrageous acts — it’s about a system of unchecked and perpetuated privilege. Diangelo recommends, “Sustain discomfort of not knowing, being racially unmoored, and racial humility.”

I’m grateful for people I know well who lean insistently into these learnings, in the small and in the large. Quanita, who meets me as friend, and who knows as much as anyone that I know about tending to the inherent grief within historical trauma of race. Amanda, who in daily practice, promotes the un-settler story to honor truth telling, and acknowledgement of traditional peoples (and recommended Diangelo’s book to me after reading it herself). Chris, whose decades of work with First Nations people in Canada has taught be to further welcome and challenge world view.

There is much work to do. It is not work to take on alone. I’m grateful for simple starts. And courage in others. And beauty.

I’m Tenneson. I live in Lindon, Utah, traditional lands of the Shoshone, Goshute, Paiute, Ute, and Navajo. I’m glad to enjoy the sunsets here also, and to know, this land was not empty either.




Three Questions


It’s important to pay attention to transitions. Movements from one place to another. From one rhythm to another. From the immediate view to the long view, and vice versa. It’s important to offer ourselves and others the kindness of transitional spaces. I’m glad to have this picture above from near Pinbarren, Queensland, snapped on a delightful, recent walk that reminds me of transitions.

As a closing movement for The Circle Way Practicum, it’s important to pay attention to the transition from retreat and learning space to the routines and demands that many of us return to. It’s quite a change of pace. Like going from an unpaved gravel road meant for ambling along, to six lanes of high speed zooming traffic.

At the practicum, Amanda Fenton offered a journaling exercise with eight questions, one of which was, What questions would you most like to be asked about your experience by those you return to?

Here’s the questions I wrote to help guide my own transition.

  1. How were you changed by being there?
  2. What grew in your heart?
  3. How is that connected to who you are and who you are becoming?

These questions are different and have some nuance. They imply a level of change not just for the mind, but for the heart also. They point to a level of identity and self referencing. These questions aren’t about the itinerary. They aren’t about a summary report. They aren’t meant to be answered with a 30 second timer. These questions are about noticing something deeper.

I know that I won’t necessarily get asked these questions. People will be curious of course. I’ll share pictures. I tell of places. I’ll think of exercises that I’ll use again. And, with some, I might just steer the questions — When asked, “How was your trip?” I might just answer with, “Great. And, if you are asking how I was changed by being there…” And then a followup, to create more exchange, “How have your been changed in your life the last few weeks?”

Three questions. To guide and welcome some of the real stuff with each other. Perfect answers not required. Complete answers not required. Just thoughtful noticing and witnessing.


Contribute, Learn, Gain

Last week, through The Circle Way Practicum Australia, this intention statement (in orange) came to me through an exercise for all participants. The exercise involves reflection. And presence. And dialogue. And circle. And then writing, one statement.

I love the way that a deeper and nuanced awareness shows up as we humans turn to one another.

This year: “I intend to contribute, learn, and gain the vibration of community, the energetic memory, sustained and amplified by the practice and presence of circle.”

Last year: “My deeper yes is to practice and encourage consciousness, attention, simplicity, and kindness through and with The Circle Way for the betterment of human endeavor.”

I love the way that circle reminds me of what I am up to. From the heart. In the heart.