Hosting Circle Online — Resources

Lots of good resources included in The Circle Way’s April Newsletter. It’s a good one to subscribe to if you haven’t already.

As I find myself sharing a lot these days, the limit to connection in online formats isn’t typically technical. The core invitation online is as it is in face-to-face gatherings — presence. The articles below are good guidelines to encourage that presence.

With many people finding themselves suddenly shifting their in-person circles and meetings to virtual/online, here are some previous blog posts and resources that might be useful:

I also got to include a piece, “5 Tips for Re-humanizing Meeting Structure and Process.” It complements an article by Slovenian, Natalija Vrhunc on using circle with medical teams.

For inspiration. Reach out if you want / need help with online circling.

Nuanced — In The Circle Way Agreements

One of the things that I most like about teaching / offering a 4-week class on The Circle Way, Nuancing The Components Wheel, is that it’s not just offering the nuances “out there” to others. It’s also getting very moved by nuance in my understanding and practice. So glad for Amanda Fenton, co-teacher and co-host for this one. So glad for the people that show up to the class — for their practice, learning, curiosity, and playful presence.

Some of that nuancing for me this time is with The Circle Way Agreements. I’m aware that “Agreements” is a term that requires some attention and doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Is it “consensus?” Is it a “vote?” Is it “guidelines” for helpful and shared space holding? I’ve worked all of those layers before, depending on the setting. For this post, I’m not trying to sort through the process differences. I am sorting through some of the nuancing that is awakening in me from this class on offering nuances.

Ask for what you need: offer what you can. — My nuancing for this is, “Be willing to make visible what you need so that the group might adapt or adjust together, in the name of shared healthy tending. Offer what you can in support of the well-being of the group in such expressed needs.” This guideline isn’t a promise to fulfill every need. It’s not placing an order at a restaurant to be fulfilled with expediency. It’s invitation for shared tending.

Stories we share are confidential. — I’ve always felt that learning in a circle is and should be portable. Anonymized, of course. Or, carried with permission from the story teller, of course. Or universalized to principle rather than the story details. My nuancing here comes more from images. If I saw flowers growing in your garden, as much as I enjoy the flowers, I wouldn’t presume that its ok for me to dig them up and plant them in my garden. Stories, like flowers, belong in the story-garden of the person who shared them.

Listen with compassion and curiosity. — I love the invitation to be curious here. Lately, my nuancing has been to invite “curiosity” as a kind of connective tissue among us. When a compassionate curiosity is present, with others and with self, it’s like having good soil from which we can grow many good things in a shared garden. Compassion and curiosity are a kind of compost.

From time to time, we pause. — The nuancing for me is that “pause” is about welcoming silence as a participant. It’s about knowing that there will be moments of integration, when there are no words. It’s about everyone being able to request when pause is helpful. Pause is about orienting attention to the center and all that is moving in it (insights, questions, wonders, ahas, challenges). Pause is about honoring lots of kinds of knowing, and welcoming that in moments of silence.

So glad to be nuanced. It is one of the basic ways that I orient to the journey that is practicing circle, and for that matter, the journey that is life. So glad to be in nuancing with a community that wants to learn and offer such things. With agreements. And with a lot of other juicy bits.

Learning The Circle Way — Three Ways September – December

Circle remains for me the most central aspect of how I work with people. It’s the most simple, yet powerful structure I know, to enhance turning to one another. To be smart. To be thoughtful. To be kind. To be innovative.

Circle also remains for me the most implicit agreement of how I like to live with people. Again, most simple and powerful. Again, to add to the richness of connection, turned to one another. Again, to be smart, thoughtful, kind, innovative. And to be, well, momentarily webbed in more blatant wholeness.

Circle remains for me a methodology that initiates and improves quality of connection. Yes. Learn well. And, circle is a methodology that becomes way of being that organizes and integrates more of the depth of who we are and how we are together as people in varied endeavors and settings.

Now, in a society that can so often default to sound bytes and pithy statements, I don’t want to land in the territory of an unintended marketing pitch about circle. And, I also don’t want to be shy about sharing stuff that enriches in uber needed ways.

Upcoming — in September, November, and December — are three formats that I’m involved in to help teach circle, and to help grow circle practitioners. My invitation is to the part of each of us that hunches are way into improving what we know as method, and to deepening what we practice as being.

In chronological order:

  1. The Circle Way Online — A Class to Nuance Understanding and Use of The Circle Way Components Wheel. This one is coming soon. We start September 17th. It runs weekly (skipping September 24th), four times through to October 15th. This is with myself and colleague / friend Amanda Fenton. We’ve completed this class six times now. We have a morning and afternoon class (Mountain Time). Registration is limited to 14 people per class. A few spots remain.
  2. Courageous Meeting — The Circle Way. This one runs November 19-20th. It’s face-to-face at a retreat center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Myself and colleague / friend Quanita Roberson host this one. Quanita and I are committed to depth of practice in varied complex environments. We are explicitly committed to the change and growth that is rooted in inner awareness and awakeness that then translates to practice with people / groups. Courage, with self and other, grows with a bit of structure that is circle. So does honest speaking. So does attentive listening. We anticipate a group of 25-30 participants.
  3. The Circle Way Advanced Practicum. This one is also face to face, running December 5-9, 2019. This one is also at a retreat center, Aldermarsh, located on Whidbey Island, Washington (north and west of Seattle). This is again with Amanda Fenton. People who come to this one have broad and deliberate practice of circle, sometimes from The Circle Way tradition, and sometimes from other circle traditions. Advanced practice is very much about co-learning our way forward as a group into advanced heart, mind, and belly. Yes, there is mystery. Yes, there is applied learning. Yes, there good challenges faced together. We anticipate a group of 14-16 participants.

Pick your favorite why. Mine include “just because” in a way that sounds softer than it is. Just because, for me, often means, “because a sense of deeper intuitive knowing tells me so.” Yes, please lean into that.

Another favorite why for me includes, “because the world is wonky.” That’s rather broad. And I’m glad not the only description of what is real. But also, humans, teams, groups, families, communities — there’s struggle everywhere to reinsert meaningfulness together. And some relational capacity for honesty and brilliance.

Learning The Circle Way — Three Ways. Yes, act now. I / we welcome you in this from your “why,” whether in “just because” or irrepressible longing in the places and spaces you seek community and great work.



The Thing Behind The Thing Behind The Thing

[Also available on Human to Human, The Podcast, 6.5 minutes]

This phrase is one of my favorites these days. The thing behind the thing behind the thing. It suggests quest. It suggests layers. It suggests “ongoing” (I could very easily add ellipsis…). It’s narrative for what I feel we are so often up to in teams, groups, communities, and families. It’s also straight talk, plain and simple.

A particular kind of thing behind the thing that I am compelled toward is “operating system.” It’s the part that makes things go. Often invisibly. In teams, groups, communities, and families. It’s the unseen part. In a car, operating system is engine. Though in that case, I just like that the buttons and functions work. Same in a computer. I don’t get wowed by technical specifications (I suppose I should). I’m just glad that it functions reliably. And, well, that there is elegance and beauty. I also have preference lately, challenging myself, to operating systems that are living, not just mechanical. There are operating systems in soil. In gardens. In forests. It ain’t so odd to think that the trees and the plants “talk.” Botanists have been telling us this for a while now, often catching up to what has been indigenous wisdom for centuries and millennia.

I totally enjoyed the gift of a conversation yesterday with some colleagues and companions in The Circle Way. In the middle of our conversation, hosted in circle of course, I found another layer of thing behind thing. We participants were trees, that in the space of those 90 minutes on the video conference, became forest. And the oxygen produced, was, well, ability to breathe, and, a clarity. Unlike mechanical and electrical operating systems I love to dive into consciousness and awareness operating systems (which have a bit of electricity to them).

Here it is for me. It represents some ongoing learning and clarifying and simplifying:

The Circle Way is both methodology and way of being.
As methodology, it is often referenced as a tool or group process format.
As methodology, this is where there is often leaning into the components wheel, also as tools (agreements, practices, roles, etc).
It is often used for dialogue, learning, and connection.
It feels fruitful and essential and helpful to me to learn the methodology well.
To use skillfully with groups.

As way of being, The Circle Way points to a kind of cultural pattern.
It interrupts unintended siloing.
It presumes an expectation that who we are together is different and more than who we are alone.
And thus, there is gut level orientation to the possibility of an emergence from the interaction.
As way of being, it’s less formula, and becomes more instinct (I would say, grown from methodological robustness).
It is an inherent reliance on wholeness (sometimes brought forward because of silence, or pause).
It is welcome, even expectation, that there just might be some mystery to notice together.
Yup, as way of being, circle’s oxygen is often learning, connection, and insight.
Yup, it is utterly fruitful to learn and be in continued practice.

One of the most exciting experiences in the world for me is the kind of aliveness that come from insight, so often grown with people willing to lean into thing behind the thing. I’m grateful for a good many companions and colleagues that bring their own versions of this.

My next open enrollment circle offerings include:

The Circle Way Practicum at Whidbey Island, August 14-19, 2019
The Circle Way Online Class, Tuesdays, September 17 – October 15, 2019
Great Facilitation: An Art of Hosting Intensive in Denver, October 23-25, 2019 (not exclusively circle; includes other participative methodologies and ways of being)
Fire & Water Leadership Cohort Near Cincinnati, October 30 – November 3, 2019 (first of three in person gatherings, using circle as root form)
Courageous Meeting: The Circle Way in Cincinnati, November 19-20, 2019 (a new offering)
The Circle Way Advanced Practicum at Whidbey Island, December 5-9, 2019