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Circles
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"Circles"

© 2012

, Joyce A.Kovelman, Ph.D., Ph.D.

 

I will begin by sharing a story that took place about five years ago. A large group of women gathered in my friend's living room. We were going to create a Million Women's March in response to the Million Men's March. Everyone was excited and it was difficult to speak. Suddenly, one woman talked of marching with more anger, and I found myself blurting out the words. "Women don't march, they sit in circles."

 

I also challenged this same woman to move forward with her anger into something new, rather than war, violence, or another version of an eye for an eye. I wanted to see humankind evolve. She turned towards me and whispered, "Honey, don't you know this is war, this is revolution?" I was stunned!

 

The tension in the room escalated and the mood shifted. Differences were no longer respected and the idea that had brought women from all religions, ethnicities, nations, and races did not survive. We never did march, nor did we sit in circles before the great monuments in Washington, D. C.

I left my friend's home changed. I was surprised by my own remark. Where did such knowledge come from? Where did I learn that? Since that time, I have been drawn to create circles, not only for women, but also for men, for children, for families. The Knights in King Arthur's court sat at the Round Table, elders of all wisdom traditions sit in circles, and I, too, have been blessed to sit in many circles.

 

Circles have no beginning or ending. They define a privileged space, often a sacred space for people to feel safe and supported. In a circle, everyone is equal. All are valued. We speak to one another - heart to heart, and eye to eye. We agree that nothing leaves the circle unless all grant permission. In this way, confidences are kept, sharing is respected, and there is nothing to fear and no need to hide.

 

Each circle is different. Some sit in silence, others dance, speak, learn, or just share life's story. Circles also touch the divine and in so doing, bring Heaven to Earth and allow us to reach our higher potential. Circles are also places of healing. Many come with sadness and pain, eager to release it to a power greater than their own.

 

Let us look at some guidelines that encourage all who come together in the circle to tap their capacity for compassion and wisdom.

 

l. Honor the circle as sacred time and space by marking the beginning and end of each gathering with a ritual and prayer, followed by a brief moment of silence. This invites the sacred into your circle.

2. Create a center, by mutually agreeing on purpose and intention. This is the "why" you have all come together at this time.

3. Ask to be informed by our highest human values such as truth and compassion. Agree that only one person speaks at a time and use a talking stick to signify who has the right to talk at a given time.

4. Express gratitude for the blessings and teachings life offers to us. Enter the circle without blame or judgment, and open to what teachings it reveals. If you enter with grievance and pain, come prepared to move towards resolution and forgiveness.

5. Create a safe and healing space where all feel welcome and all are able to participate. This encourages deep truth-telling and respect for each person's journey. A space of confidentiality and freedom from ridicule is granted to all who come together in oneness.

6. Listen from the heart, serve as a compassionate witness, avoid judging, and don't try to fix another. Feedback is only given if asked for. Finding a part of ourselves in the stories and challenges of others is the circle's gift back to us. We leave with greater appreciation of each person's journey, including our own.

7. Speak from the heart and direct experience. Remain in touch as much as you can with your feelings. They will guide you to your own resolution and inner knowing.

8. Make room for silence to enter your circle. Reflection is good for the Soul. Silence is really a friend, when we allow ourselves the trust and the space to hear our own voice. It is in the silence that we touch the sacred.

9. Empower each participate by taking turns as co-facilitator, each learning trust, respect and to care for one another.

 

Since that night five years ago, I have sat in many circles, and each time I am changed and moved by all I meet within. The circle is a place of initiation and trust. It is timeless and a place where one meets with their deepest self and experiences the divine.

 

I am reminded of the words spoken by RollingThunder, " The circle is Great Spirit's emblem. All life is a circle." He understood the importance of Earth as a Sacred Hoop, badly in need of healing. Native Americans also use the Medicine Wheel for healing and balance, and through it, knew the holy zero of mathematics.

Native American sweat lodges, places of purification, are also round in shape.

 

The Sanskrit word Mandala means circle. It delineates a sacred, protected space and offers us a map of the cosmos. Jung considered the mandala as the symbol of Self; simultaneously center, goal, and totality of mind. Wheels are also sacred maps and mirrors of creation, enduring life, emergent Self, and the realms of the Invisible. Within the circle, especially at times when we spiral and reach beyond our selves, there is no higher or lower, no better or worse, no right and no wrong. Rather unity and diversity, light and dark, matter and non-matter co-exist within the Sacred Circle.

 

Circles often appear to us in dreams and visions. They speaks to us of unity, change and transformation. Circles, mandalas, wheels, and spirals symbolically proclaim our need for new structures, greater harmony, balance and new personhood. In truth, mandalas and medicine wheels are sacred maps to the realms of the sacred. The Center is nameless and eternal, a place of Self-renewal and rebirth. The Center is every Self's goal.

 

T.S. Eliot reminds us: "We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be To arrive where we started and know The place for the very first time."

 
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