Circle Buffet

Lupines are one of my favorites. These particular lupines growing in my garden are about three feet tall, the top one foot of which flowers. Where I live the flowered top comes in early May and lasts for about a month. I do my best to encourage these lupines to grow and to give them room to reseed themselves. I post this picture here mostly because I love the lupine beauty in it. I also post this picture here because it’s not a stretch to admonish for beauty in groups of humans in varied task, production, and adventure together. “Beauty” is one of the narratives that deserves more attention and intention.

I’m convening several online classes on circle these days. One group is a client system I’m cohosting with Quanita Roberson, a system that works in some very tough and challenged settings. Two groups are open enrollment participants that I’m cohosting with Amanda Fenton, participants that also work in a variety of settings in which thoughtful listening and speaking are becoming more imperative. I would suggest that we are all trying to create more beautiful spaces together.

Quanita Roberson and I recently recorded a podcast, 23 minutes worth that we called, Circle Buffet. I was really hungry to follow a few threads of learning about circle as methodology and as way of being. The podcast has a bit on emergence. It has a bit on the importance of being circle and doing circle. It has an anchor in the importance of creating connection.

So, here’s to cultivating beauty amongst human beings in dialogue, learning, and connection. Here’s to making room to reseed. Here’s to reclaiming the tone and possibility of beauty, even in difficult and challenging circumstance.

Practice Found In the Detail, and, In the Disposition

I’m prepping for today’s online class that I co-host with Amanda Fenton, The Circle Way: Introducing and Nuancing The Components Wheel. Today is the fourth of four classes. The theme is “Integrating Practice and Learning.” I love the class. I love the showing up with presence in virtual space. I love the insights that come.

In prepping for today, Amanda and I invite questions from the group — “Is there more that you would like to give attention to?” It’s done in advance so that she and I have a few days to mill over what we would like to offer. It’s intended to help people harvest some of their learning, which is often, a next set of questions.

I’ve noticed a pattern of questions, having offered this class with ten groups over the last three years. On the one hand, people ask “how-to” questions. They want detail. They value stories of application, both successes and failures. I continue to find that there are specific and practiced skills that are important to cultivate. I have a few versions of quite direct “just do this” and “just don’t do this.” I’m still learning to articulate all of that. And on the other hand, people ask what I would call “disposition” questions. They want to get something that is underneath the “how-to.”

I suppose I love both kinds of questions. However, I find that if “how-to” is dislocated from “disposition,” and the deeper premises, then the responses to how-to questions never seem to quite last. 

Here’s one of the deeper premises, for example, behind how to ask good questions. As “how-to” I would suggestions questions that are as simple, and short as possible. What is important in what we do today? What matters now? What are you learning (that influences who we are as a group)? These are all rich with potential.

As “disposition,” I would suggest that good questions are the ones that give individuals and the group a chance to reveal more of themselves, or itself, to each other. They provide opportunity and invitation to speak with honesty and vulnerability. It’s not a dare to share. It’s not juvenile bravado. Rather, these questions invoke and legitimize a deep longing to belong. When honesty is contributed to a center, or witnessed from a center, the health of the group and its people is generally strengthened. I would suggest that people hunger for honesty, and wisdom together — because we as humans are coded to be such. Societal pattern may block us in the simple practices of that. Or shame us. But that isn’t to be confused with a wrong or silly approach that invites more honesty. It is my observation that when people are given opportunity to be honest, and often in the container that is circle, they recognize and respond in more life-affirming ways with self and with each other.

There is gold in the details and the how-to. Let’s not forget that there is also gold in the disposition. When we change (or experiment) with who we are and what we think on the inside, it changes so much more of what we do and see on the outside.


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.

Three Principles, The Circle Way

Later today I’ll be teaching a short segment for The Circle Way, An Online Class to Introduce and Nuance The Components Wheel, a four-week class that I cohost with Amanda Fenton. We’ve had an overall plan for this class each of the five times we’ve offered it in the last three years. I like it that, in addition to our plan, Amanda and I bring ourselves bring forward our current learnings, nuancing, and questions. Today’s short segment that I offer will be on Three Principles: Rotate Leadership, Responsibility is Shared, and Reliance is on Wholeness. Three R’s.

A few teasers:

Rotate Leadership

  • Imagery: “more hands make light work”
  • Connected Principle: “people support what they create”
  • Nuance: “not about just being nice; it’s about contributing to the health of a system”
  • When Absent: “lots of pressure for the regular leader; can unintentionally reinforce a hierarchy; missed opportunity for inclusion”
  • When Present: “shared contributions; builds kindness; builds attentiveness”
  • A Practice: “rotate the roles of host, guardian, scribe so that more people can build and offer their leadership”

Responsibility is Shared

  • Imagery: “when cleaning the kitchen, until all of us are done, none of us are done”
  • Connected Principle: “who we are together is different and more than who we are alone”
  • Nuance: “helps create the ‘us of us'”
  • When Absent: “unintended detachment, distractedness, fragmentation”
  • When Present: “ownership, attentiveness, integration”
  • A Practice: “pay attention as if you were leading the next part, needing to integrate with what has already happened”

Reliance on Wholeness

  • Imagery: “sometimes the truth depends on a walk around the lake”
  • Connected Principle: “I don’t know, but we do”
  • Nuance: “circle creates a composite being, not just a sum of the participants”
  • When Absent: “circle comes off more mechanical”
  • When Present: “more likely to experience an emergence of awareness”
  • A Practice: “pass a piece to invite what people are noticing is arising from the circle now”

Circle remains at the root of so much group work and facilitation. In the story I tell myself, circle helps restore the ability to turn to one another, so that we might find connection, learning, and practice in the “us of us.”