This week starts another round for me of co-teaching The Circle Way. This version is online. It is four weekly classes. I co-teach this with Amanda Fenton. This time we have guest storytellers to bring a few insights as BIPOC people in circle practices.
As before, in this class we emphasize “the components wheel” of The Circle Way. One of the ways that I think of this is as a steering wheel to help give strength and integrity to circle practice. It’s practices. It’s principles. It’s agreements. It’s highlights of relationship with a center. I love the way participants tend to find what they need — this is the 15th (ish) time that Amanda and I have offered this online class over the years.
One of the things I like about offering this class is that we invite people to share some expression about why they are taking the class, and also, what kind of questions do they have about using circle. There is pattern to some of these expressions. I find myself thinking these patterns now on the eve of beginning this new class with 24 people.
Tools — people are often seeking tools. I hear this from many contexts, but the short of it is that people care about their work, their families, their communities. They want tools to do good with them and for them. They want tools to make improvements.
I’m careful with the language of tools. It defaults too easily to the kind of tools that are for machines. For robotic efficiency. Tools that don’t add life. Nor connection. So when I think tools these days, I acknowledge that tools include hammers and saws. Tools also include spreadsheets and web pages. But let’s not forget — this is where I find myself stretching people in circle — to remember that a hot tub is also a kind of tool. Sometimes the “tool” that we need is people together for a point of connection and a point of softening.
Conflict — so many people are interested in working with conflict these days. Of course. Many of the patterns in society have habituated communications of declaration rather than inquiry. Society has required snappy soundbites rather than pause-filled listening. Conflict and difference arise in complexity of interaction.
What I love about circle is that it provides some of the space to bring difference back to noticing rather than judgement. It helps to create a format where we can listen again. Or listen in a different way together. Some people want a guarantee that circle will resolve conflict. That’s not what I offer as promise. Because the roots of conflict are often so deeply embedded and historical. What I do offer is that circle can help interrupt some of the pattern of conflict. That circle can help enrich learning from conflict. So as to contribute as peoples together to an imperfect evolution of how we go together.
Hunger — this is by far the biggest pattern that I hear in people that bring their focus to circle. Hunger for going well together. Hunger for creating better colleagueship. Hunger for self discovery and the way that ripples to others. Hunger for resolving differences in humane ways. Hunger for more kind ways of being together. Hunger for more truth-telling together.
It has become very important to me to remember this hunger and not to lose that impulse behind too many vigorous questions about the how of circle. It is in circle that a unique form of human spirit is brought to life. And a unique opening to be moved by the experience, even temporarily, of thoughtful listening, speaking, and presencing.
So, here we go. In circle. With awareness of these orientations to tools, to conflict, and to the places of desire that human beings have for one another.