True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible … In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.

Wendell Berry

All circles entail deep listening—even circles of one. Circles of one are more than simply being alone. They offer an opportunity for self-discovery and a way to source inner guidance.

Agreements with yourself

Like all healing circles, a circle of one begins with agreements:

  • I will treat myself with kindness and respect.
  • I will listen to myself with compassion and curiosity.
  • I will honor my unique ways of healing and won’t presume to advise, fix, or try to save myself.
  • I hold these stories as sacred.
  • I trust that I have the guidance I need within me and rely on the power of silence to access it.

It can be crowded in a circle of one

You may engage in a dialog with:

  • Your body or your organs (for example, “What are you trying to teach me?”)
  • The various roles you play in your life (for example, “If a friend were in my situation, would I treat her differently than I’m treating myself?”)
  • Emotions (for example, “Anger, what’s the message you bring?”)
  • The Universe, Source, God, or a deity (for example, “Why is this happening to me?”)
  • Guardian angels, guides, or totems (for example, “Where is this journey taking me?”)
  • Your values (for example, “I always valued achievement. Now all I can do is be.”)

Things you can do in a circle of one

You can do more in a circle of one than you can in any other type of circle.

Examples include:

  • Silence
  • Meditation
  • Dreams and their interpretation
  • Imagery
    • Guided
    • Spontaneous
  • Writing
    • Journaling
    • Poetry
  • Drawing or collage
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Being in nature
  • Whatever your creativity offers

Listening within

“You’re not listening!” How many times has someone said that to you — or heard it from you? We all long to have our stories, our fears, our loves, and our hopes really heard and tenderly held. It helps us attend to what is real. It supports us as we go forward.

My parents were good listeners, and I’ve picked up the skill reasonably well. However, until recently I’ve thought of listening as listening to others. 

Lately I’ve come to realize that the quality of my listening to others relates directly to the quality of my listening within. But it’s not easy. It requires vulnerability, discipline, and letting go. It requires taking time every day to sit quietly until the internal chatter subsides and I am breathing deeply, fully aware of the present moment, not itching to go anywhere or do anything.

At times like this, I am much more aware of my body than usual. More aware of how bodymindspirit is one reality that I separate at the risk of dis-ease.

I like this quote of a doctor telling a patient: “There is nothing wrong with you that what’s right with you can’t fix.” Listening within helps me connect with what’s right with me. Releasing that positive energy is like a warm bath, soothing what hurts and restoring what needs to be whole again. It makes me a much more relaxed and truthful listener to others.

Ways to nourish listening within

  • Fidelity to a daily practice of solitude and interior silence
  • Gently releasing things that don’t nourish our spirits
  • Living as much as possible in the present moment
  • Sharing with a trusted friend
  • Being aware of what is going on in our bodies
  • Being patient in the darkness

Signs that we can trust what we hear

  • We feel right and peaceful “deep down,” even though we may also feel fear, resistance, and insecurity.
  • We are free to speak our truth.
  • We are not dependent on what others think.
  • We are less attached to outcomes.
  • We are drawn to love and to serve.

Corrine Bayley volunteers at Healing Circles Langley. In her former life, she was a Catholic nun, a hospital CEO, a bioethics teacher, and a spiritual director.

Header photo by David Welton