We heal best in community.
Rachel Naomi Remen
What are healing circles?
An old proverb reminds us that sharing joy with others doubles that joy and sharing sorrow halves that sorrow. Scientific research is starting to confirm what people have long known to be true: Those with positive social support have fewer heart attacks, live longer, experience less dementia, recover from illness more quickly, and are generally happier. But many don’t have the support they need.
Healing Circles is a nonprofit whose vision is to provide positive social support to anyone who asks for it. This takes place in small circles built on a framework that brings out the best in people. It encourages participants to treat one another with kindness and respect, hold one another’s stories in confidence, withhold judgment, and honor one another’s unique path to healing without advising, fixing, or rescuing.
Circle participants work together to explore the best ways to remove obstacles to healing, alleviate suffering, and deepen their capacity to heal. They also access their own inner guidance to determine where the greatest healing—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—can occur.
The Healing Circles learning community is growing and includes centers in Canada, the US, and Israel with new centers taking root in India, Switzerland, Thailand, and among groups of professionals, such as healthcare professionals and chaplains. Our online global programs are already reaching out across the US and Canada to Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East.
How we started
Circles began 100,000 years ago when all of our ancestors gathered around the campfire. Our friends and mentors Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea say “Circle started around the cook-fires of humanities ancestors and has accompanied us ever since. We remember this space. When we listen, we speak more thoughtfully. We lean into shared purpose.”
We are grateful that the indigenous and African peoples carried the pattern of circle forward.
Our recent lineage for Healing Circles Global is the Circle Way work of Christina and Ann, who taught that there was a “leader in every chair” to correct imbalances of hierarchy and power.
Parker Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal taught that there was a “hidden wholeness” in each of us that Circles of Trust could help bring to light.
Michael Lerner and Rachel Naomi Remen, the founders of the Cancer Help Program at Commonweal, understood that each of us has the capacity for “intentional healing” at the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Building on their model, Gretchen Schodde at Harmony Hill, Janie Brown at Callanish Society, and Shanti Norris at the Smith Center created powerful retreats and local offerings for cancer patients.
Inspired by Remen’s “we heal best in community” and subsequent research into the tremendous impact community has on our health, Diana and Kelly Lindsay, co-founders of Healing Circles Langley, and David Spaw, founder of Healing Circles Houston, were able to adapt The Circle Way and Cancer Help Program model to provide social support to anyone who asked for it in both a rural and urban setting at no cost to participants.
Now the global pandemic, combined with widespread adoption of video conferencing, has provided both the opportunity and the profound need to offer circles to a global audience.