On Circle — Three Things

One of the things that I love about hosting people in circle, and teaching about circle, is that I continue to learn things about circle and we people who come to it. Yes, it’s a practice. Yes, these are things remembered — “oh yah, that again.” These are bits of nuancing that I would suggest help improve the strength of the practice — circle as group process methodology, and, circle as rather healthy way of being.

From hosting and teaching yesterday, here’s some of my list that I scribbled into my notebook.

  • Tears — are welcomed and need not be apologized for. It remains interesting to me that the default as cultural meeting pattern is to apologize for having tears. Like it’s wrong. In this gathering, my cohost Quanita and I said what we tend to say when someone sheds a few tears and apologizes. “No need to apologize. The unlearning / relearning here is to bring more of ourselves into the room, not less.” That doesn’t mean every aspect of a complete meltdown — that’s a bit different. I’ve loved the skills that I’ve seen in people to be honest about how they are (or transparent, or vulnerable), yet, a bit contained within their own emotional hoop. Oh, and with tears — because we are emotional beings — we encourage people not to rescue the person in tears. What it looks like is people getting their own tissue, or asking for it, rather than a default, yet often unnamed norm of “clean that up.”
  • Rim — is what all of us in a circle hold with one another. We each have a job to help hold our part of the container. It’s a bit like forming an edge to keep what is being spoken — stories, questions, wonderings, musings, vulnerabilities — in the circle. Most contemporary meetings are rather bipolar in role descriptions. You’re either the one in charge doing and seeing everything. Or, your are a passive participant not needing to fully engage (and often engaging through phones about other things). The shared responsibility of all in a circle is contribute to holding a rim. Or to hold our part of the bowl, if you will.
  • Making it up — is a good skill in circle. It’s what it sounds like when the talking piece comes to us and we don’t know what to say. “I thought I was going to talk about this, but now I feel inspired to share this.” Or, “I forgot to bring an object for the center of this circle, but what I can offer is this scarf that I’m wearing.” Making it up isn’t about bullshitting. It isn’t about telling lies. It isn’t “fake it ’til you make it.” Rather, I’d say that making it up is about a more keen ability to be in the present moment, and share what arises from within us. We’re all learning this. I would suggest this is a non-performative aspect of “being” in circle rather than “doing” circle.

Yes, one of the things about hosting and teaching in circle is that I feel hosted and taught. It’s what a circle tends to gift back to us that sit in them, and that lean in to the possibility that some mystery of being together as humans might just come to the surface for the betterment of who we are and how we are together.

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