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.

Patterning Encounter — Three Simple Rounds

In yesterday’s The Circle Way Online Class with Amanda Fenton, one of the contexts I shared with participants was when they went into small groups. They would have 25 minutes in groups of four or five. One person would host. One person would guardian. There were three “rounds” that we encouraged.

  1. Check-in (How is it that you are arriving to this small group circle now?)
  2. Main Question (Tell a story of when you have experienced The Circle Way components to be helpful — or challenging when missing.)
  3. Check-out (What was one thing you appreciated from your small circle?)

These three steps are a deeply engrained pattern for those of us that practice circle. With of course, a few assumptions tucked beneath them. Yesterday we highlighted “center” — the third space in which we contribute our thinking, feeling, and wondering. It is from willingness to attend to center that emergence becomes more visible and flavored. Yesterday we also highlighted “talking piece” — the act of creating more deliberate and uninterrupted sharing and listening.

I spoke these three rounds as engrained and entrained, just as it is for some of us with our morning habits — brush teeth, shower, cup of coffee. I also spoke what I see as underlaying purpose of each, that contributes to animating awareness and connection through circle.

Check-in invokes presence. It is the shift from social space to the deliberate attending in circle. Or to shift even from one form of circle to another. In our class it was from the group of 14 to the groups of four or five. Even a “mini check-in” matters. It’s like re-stabilizing our psyches to a new configuration of humans gathered. Each configuration benefits from a weave to animate the wholeness of that particular group. Check-in is what helps us get to that.

Main Question is animated by story. Circle is not presentation. Nor is it one person at the front of the room. Nor is it dumping data. Many things can be shared, including core facts and strong opinions. But circle uniquely invites us to a different quality of interaction together. I’ve learned this is often because of inviting people to be in the spirit of sharing story that shows a bit of how they relate to the main question. Sharing experience, even a tiny bit, that relates to the main question. Sharing story is itself a learning strategy. And yes, story creates delight — even the challenging ones.

Check-out invokes witnessing. It creates just a bit of deliberateness to notice what just happened. It’s difference than just racing away. It’s like being deliberate to tidy the dishes before rushing out of the house. Check-out tends to more of the energy and more of the experience in the group. It’s powerful and important to hear an individual express what they experienced, sometimes even in just a word. It’s powerful and important to notice how that is shared, or unique, in the group. We so often live in contexts that skip over the witnessing and even momentary sense-making together. Check-out is what helps us benefit from these qualities together.

Patterns. Aren’t we all learning these. To make conscious or change the unconscious ones. To claim and give light structure to the new ones.

Patterns of encountering. Well, isn’t this at the heart of it all. Daring to lean into the possibility of the whole and what is uniquely created in the middle. Daring to create added life and awakeness in who we are and what we try to do or be together.