The Circle Way Essence Cards — Now Available for Purchase

For purchases, please email me,

I’m generally the kind of human that appreciates simplicity. Not narrow and with blind eyes (hopefully not, though, garsh, I know I  have that in me too). But rather, an appreciation that reaches for an essence or for deep guiding principles.

Over the last couple of months, Quanita Roberson and I have been working on this set of Essence Cards, shown above. I love the subtitle, “Simple Notes to Guide Skillful Practice.” Because in the end, whether as method or as way of being, circle is a primary container to help many of us turn to one another to be in communality. About what we love and about what perplexes and strains us in these times. What Quanita and I have done is taken simple structure, rooted in The Circle Way Pocket Guide (used with permission) and provided some of our learned simplicity about circle structure and practice. We are beginning to use them with clients and groups.

The cards were fun to make. They are now available for purchase by reaching me. There’s 26 cards in each set (see below), 6″ x 8″ in size. Full color. They come in a little cotton bag. $20 USD + Postage. A percentage of each purchase will be donated back to The Circle Way, and to another non-profit or group of people engaged in circle based change and reform.

For Canadian orders beyond North America, also contact me for special arrangements (

These cards have short descriptions, a few diagrams, and highlighted essences related to practice. We offer them with hope that they will guide and inspire helpful practice. In organizations. On teams. In community. In family. Purchase if you like. Or talk to us about use. Thx for referring others to them. To be in skillful simplicity together.


Welcome & Context

The Common Elements
The Circle Way Then and Now

Preparation & Invitation
Hosting The Circle

The Components Wheel
Three Practices
Three Principles
Start Point & End Point

Leadership Roles (That Rotate)
Decision-Making in Circle
Creative Responses to Difficulties
Meeting Planner Using Circle
On Powerful Questions
Examples of Questions

Differences for Business
Differences for Beginners
Differences for Seasoned Circlers
Circling Online, The Technical Side
Circling Online, The Presence Side

About Tenneson Woolf
About Quanita Roberson
Additional Resources, The Circle Way
Invitation, Your Turn

Cuppa — Good Humaning

This is good stuff. Period.

I’ve been able to participate twice in the last month. Cuppa. At a small coffee shop and social house, Landlocked, in Cincinnati. It’s a communal conversational thing over a cup of coffee. Happens every Wednesday morning. About 12 or so gather. It connects people through an invitation to share story. It serves a fundamental need to be listened into greater presence. That’s what I’ve experienced.

It’s Joey. It’s Brad. It’s other good humans at the table, in groups of 3-4. Good folks, as they say. I would suggest made good(er) by the ever simple container of a prompt, a four letter word, and an invitation to reflect. After hearing stories, a simple round of gifts received. Delicious. Like the coffee.

There is template in this for me. Simple essence of connection that weave us humans into a momentary more noticeable and undeniable unseparatedness together. There is health in that. It so much more that just the cup of coffee. It always is.

I’m grateful to be with people who touch lightly to be touched deeply.

From a Few Questions

It has always been important to ask good questions, hasn’t it. The questions that reach deeper into what is really going on. The questions that add just enough clarity that they move us just a little. The questions that stop us in our tracks and that reshape everything.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about good questions. Actually, that’s not completely true. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what might help the people that I’m with (and me) in the circumstances that they find themselves in. These are work contexts in which teams are trying to stay healthy. These are some more personal contexts in which individuals are trying to make sense of very raw material.

Perhaps it is all raw. The check-ins that I’ve been a part of lately have all had a noticeable amount of sorrow in them — because of the shootings in New Zealand, or the unrest in Paris, or animated disputes that are national and local politics, or the shooting without cause of another black man, or the fires that burn in Australia, or the continued revelations of abuse within church systems that lay covered for decades. Or, or, or. There is rawness.

There are two particular questions that I’ve been noticing are helpful for these intense times — again, in my search for what helps. And these questions, though they can be very useful at scale and in more formal program within organizational systems, are what I’m thinking about that can help in a more horizontal way. These are questions that can be asked more vitally with one another, even in casual circumstances.

  1. What do you feel is the essence of what is happening here? The key word in this is “essence.” Well, that and, “you feel.” The layers of complexity that continue to grow, the layers of interconnectedness, the layers of soundbites and manipulated communications — these are all leading us to an even more paramount layer of reclaiming essence. What is at the core of this? What is most central? What is at the crux of it? The “you feel” is important in that it’s welcoming the subjective — because complexity requires us to expect the subjective. It’s not “the truth” that can be manipulated and marketed that matters. It’s “a truth” that comes from awareness that matters and from good listening together.
  2. Are there improvements your can offer or suggest? The key word in this one is “improvements.” And, “offer.” Improvements aren’t about a complete fix. They aren’t about magically taking on the whole dragon with single-handed bravado, expecting to conquer. That’s good mythological material, and I suppose, some imprinted DNA of expected story. But what seems to matter more these days is some of the incremental movement, and from a chosen value. Is there something that you feel we could do slightly better here? Is there an essence to your improvement? The “offering” here is about a needed capacity to experiment. It’s giving us all something to try and to work from a spirit of proposals.

These questions aren’t that complicated. I’m not even trying to wordsmith them too much. The questions are simple. The values — essence and improvements — are deliberate. The simple questions are often what helps us move, any of us as individuals and in teams, in some rather complex, intense, raw, and shock-filled domains. In my most simple impulses, I imagine that these questions asked with some deliberateness — whether in the coffee room, the staff meeting, or in the company-wide — these questions animate an energy that brings some wisdom and aliveness back to our endeavors. They are life-lines to help in what feels like drowning in complexity.

It was my friend and colleague, Toke Moeller, that I most remember speaking a simple principle from our work together in the early 2000s. “Purpose is the invisible leader.”  Toke was pointing to the clarity of purpose needed, that if animated, has a way of guiding all of us. It is my sense, as I think it was for Toke and many of us back then, that a focus on first, essence, and then, improvements, get us to more of a shared purpose these days. And, well, with that, perhaps some hope too.

All from a few questions.

Thanks in particular to colleague and friend Kathleen Masters, and a recent conversation in which some of these points of awareness became a bit more clear.

The Simple Narrative — The Basics Are The Same


I am grateful for the conversation that I had with two colleagues yesterday. We know each other initially from some work between 2010 and 2013. We continue to know each other, because there is an irrepressible friendship and colleagueship that comes from work that moves both mind and spirit.

Yesterday’s conversation was about imagining a couple of gatherings that we will likely offer this October. We were each sharing stories of our current learning that will help to shape that work.

“The basics are the same.
What this work does is cultivate presence.
In ourselves.
And in who we are together.
There is great need for high quality speaking,
observing more than is the rational,
and consciousness.
There is great need to interrupt the patterns of rushing,
and of political maneuvering.
There is great need to relearn to seek the essence,
and to trust that to nourish us,
all of us.”

I am grateful for colleagues who become life-long friends, in whom we animate more of the mystery within which we all live, and more of the sense-making that guides both the long arc, and, the trust in just the next few steps.