The only person who can accurately perceive a circle to be healing is the individual circle participant. Healing is what the person says it is. (Like pain is what the person says it is).
The following personal observations of what makes a circle a healing environment are distilled from discussions at the HC Annual Leadership Council, Whidbey Island, August 2018.
I feel healing in a circle when:
- I take the risk of being vulnerable and share my truth (authentic expression).
- I hear others share what is true for them.
- I feel accepted, no matter the content of what I share,
- I feel accepted, no matter the emotions I express.
- I feel deeply listened to (I can tell by the quality of attention and compassionate expressions on the faces of the listeners that I have been heard).
- I feel a sense of awe at the capacity of humans to be present to both the beauty and the heartbreaks of their lives.
- I feel inspired by others to express more love, kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity in my life.
- The atmosphere of the circle is warm, patient, kind, forgiving, trusting, gentle, fierce, and steady.
- My heart opens equally to strangers as to friends.
- I sense care in setting up the sacred space—a circle in which the chairs are positioned so participants can see each other, a gesture of beauty in the center (flower, rocks, candles, cloths, bell), doors to the outside world closed, all technology fully silenced and invisible.
- I feel the circle rest in itself.
- The circle’s strength is tested and holds.
- The circle breaks and repairs itself.
- A blessing is spoken from one person to another.
- I see a compassionate gesture of one person to another.
- I feel warmly welcomed into the circle.
- I feel warmly released from the circle.
- I feel safe when the :
- host/facilitator/leaders abide by the circle contracts
- group abides by the circle contracts
- host intervenes kindly and respectfully, and sometimes fiercely, when a circle contract is broken
- host models vulnerability, deep listening, full attention, and compassion
- I sense the intelligence/wisdom/grace/mystery of the circle arise in our midst,
- I sense interdependence—that my life only happens in relation to all lives.
- I feel deeply grateful for the circle.
Header photo courtesy of Callanish