First Annual European Host Gathering: From Zoom Room to Ballroom
When we started offering services through Healing Circles Global in March of 2020, just after the declaration of the global pandemic, we had no idea that we’d be meeting so many cool people from all over the world. On Zoom, no less!
Without any marketing other than our website, people from all over the world found us and registered for host and guardian trainings. While most trainees lived in the United States, we saw increasing numbers of Europeans who were interested in participating in, and hosting, healing circles. By fall of 2020, there was a solid contingent of Europeans who wanted to form a team of hosts living in Europe. Thus, we created a circle, which continues to meet twice monthly.
Our hosts live in France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Slovenia. Despite differences in geography and language, we bonded. Some of us shared the experience of being an immigrant. We all shared English as a second language, an interest in offering healing circles, and the lock-down experience during the first winter of the pandemic. Because of the pandemic, many of us encountered acute and prolonged loneliness and isolation for the first time in our lives as we were cut off from family and friends. Our global circles provided opportunities to connect across borders, and getting together on Zoom was a form of “travel” that made us feel less separate.
Spring 2021 came, and travel restrictions were gradually lifted. We began to say things like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to get together in person?” At first, that felt like a dream, but then we began to wonder: Why not? What would it be like if we actually got together in person with a group of people with whom we had shared intimate details of our lives, but whom we had never met in person? Was it worth the risk? What if we did not like each other outside of Zoom?
Four of us met in Slovenia for seven days of sightseeing and getting to know one another. Then we met two others at a cloister in Austria for a retreat/seminar.
Our retreat began with a seasonal ritual hosted by Gabi. This was followed by a three-part grief ritual designed by Stefan. In addition, we sat in circle, engaged in strategy sessions around future plans, hiked, and practiced qi-gong. Above all, we shared delicious meals, had fun during social times, and enjoyed the experience of getting to know different cultures.
Following that, we gathered with two French hosts in Paris. Our journey ended in Berlin, where we got to know several new members of our Healing Circles community over tea at Clärchen’s Ballhaus (Ballroom).
Meeting in person was different than meeting on Zoom, but we were not strangers to one another. I remember getting off the bus in Ljubljana and being greeted by Ulrike like an old friend. We saw each other in the midst of the crowd, ran toward each other, and hugged as if we were members of the same tribe.
Part of what made getting to know one another easier was the circle structure and agreements. There were several times when we called a circle as a way of checking assumptions, which increased our understanding of one another.
Of course, in the beginning, we had anxieties about whether and how it would all work out. Nobody could predict what it would be like to travel with Zoom friends. But looking back, I can answer the question “Was it worth it?” with a resounding “Yes!” And during today’s circle, we mused about planning our second annual gathering in Budapest in 2022.