For the past 15 years I've been sitting and also facilitating circles with women of many different ages, in a variety of cities, countries and contexts and it’s all been life changing.
All over the world, all sorts of people, in all sorts of ways sit in the circle of community and have since time remembered. As we return back to our human togetherness, we heal, receive inspiration, feel more deeply, becoming more hopeful and ultimately become more courageous on our individual paths. It's important for humans to feel a part of something that supports them when they feel weak (and we all do at times). A circles seems to give each person exactly what they need at that time.
Allowing yourself to be open to the healing a circle can bring is the first step. Then by sharing sacred time with others over the months, spending reflective moments side by side, we start to remember the truth that we are not alone on this planet, we are indeed supported, and we can let the old stories go. This shedding of false self is one of the gifts circles often bring.
We change the narrative, “others are indeed here for you and helpful.” We remember it takes a village and we let it. Through journaling, being in our bodies fully with both gentle guided movements and free movement we get to remembering the nourishing feeling of tribe. Listening to the authentic experiences of other like-minded women being their true self, something extraordinary begins to happen, we remember we have strength to become that which we fear we can not! And life gets curious, meaningful, sacred, and more fun (most importantly)!
I’d like to share with you now how to host your own circle, as doing so is extremely important for women’s health and wellbeing, especially right now when some of our rights are being threatened and the planet is going through many hardships.
Circling is an ancient technology that works and I want it to work and support your life. It has transformed me and informed me in so many ways. I hope my tips help get you circling (again) as I believe that it’s likely that no matter your ancestry, women from your lineage however far back likely circled together in some way to be of support and help to each other. So it’s in your bones.
6 STEPS TO CIRCLING
This is a big topic and I did my best to paint the basics, and give some insights that will serve you for many years of circling. Please use what serves you and add to it where you feel called to.
1. WHAT CIRCLE DO YOU NEED?
Sit with yourself before forming a circle or joining one and ask yourself in a quiet moment what you personally would want out of a dream circle. Sit, write, ponder, and or talk with your group about this if you already have a formed group. What is it you all want out of the circle, create a list of ideas each are ready to explore, dream up possibilities, things to discuss, things to do together. It could be emotional support, sisterhood, a safe place to explore self, a spiritual circle that helps you grow, a writing circle, a sharing circle, meditation, prayer, singing, or your circle could be a blend of all of these. Your circle’s intention may also change as you discover what works for you and your sisters. Stay listening to what circle you are needing and how to nurture the circles needs as your needs change. As women we do this instinctively but know that creating circle is an evolving art and circles will evolve naturally. Like everything in nature, and the shape of a circle itself, there is a constantly cyclical action that is alive, a forever returning and moving and spiraling back that happens.
2. GATHER YOUR SISTERS!
If you are creating a private circle then mindfully choose a handful of women in your life that you respect, mostly enjoy being with and you feel would be open to circling. Women whom you feel are ready and willing to be in the type of circle that you are ready to create or be a part of. For example if your circle is about self-growth, are these women you have invited ready to expand from normal day to day conversations (e.g. the weather) to deep conversations around sticky topics (e.g. sex, fidelity, the heart). If you are wanting a circle that explores spirituality and or sexuality, are these women somewhat comfortable entertaining these topics? Be courageous and ask them first before assuming they are or are not interested. They could be also wanting to expand outside their comfort zone but are struck by fear. You could be the courageous catalyst! Later they may be yours. I have emailed and or taken girlfriends out to tea to ask them if they are interested in joining a circle, a hand written invite might work lovely too!
3. START CIRCLING
Think of a circle having a beginning, a middle and an end. Create a ritual or a ceremony for the start, middle and end to your circle. Having consistency to the parts of your circles is helpful. Also allowing space for new things to emerge and spontaneity to occur is important. Let there be rules and let yourself break them too. So you may want to start your circle with a song, or a prayer, or reading, a poem, a manifesto, or simply sitting in silence for 5 minutes. The start is sacred and acknowledges that you are entering circle space which is different then our hierarchy space in day to day life, the circle represents equality, mutuality and wholeness, coming together. Give some time to start your circle in a meaningful way that is helpful to you and your sisters. Maybe that is lighting a candle, drinking tea together, a short yoga practice etc. Remember this is a very special circle so treat it with respect, honor and care. I often sage smudge all those coming to circle as a way to clean and purify the self for arriving to circle and to acknowledge a new way that is possible as we gather.
Then let the middle of the circle be the “meat" of the circle. Maybe this is when you pass around a stone or talking stick and everyone shares something. I recommend trying out how it feels to let a women speak without interrupting her, just listen to her with mindfulness and don’t judge her or give her advice. Often we are hungry to be heard so give her the gift of listening. Sit, listen and breathe, track your breath if you get triggered by what she is saying, but keep listening to her. Let her tell her story and share her wisdom. Often we forget to allow women's wisdoms and inner knowing to come out. Let your deep listening support her in arriving to her own answers and awareness. You don’t have to heal her, you just have to hear her. Validate her experience and her knowing. This is a huge gift women can give each other in circle. Depending on your group size, maybe you will need to set a time limit, such as letting each woman speak uninterrupted for 10 minutes. It’s important that all voice are heard. The “meat" of the circle can also be an activity. Maybe you want the circle to create a vision board or practice a dance, or paint, or massage each other. The options are limitless and they are always evolving, there is always something worthwhile to circle about and go deeper with.
End the circle in a meaningful way as well. Maybe you all hold hands and sing a prayer, chant an om sound, share one word that evokes what that circle meant for them. If you are hosting a public circle that is open to all women in your community then be prepared to create a circle that is appealing to a wide variety of people and backgrounds, religions, preferences etc. Get unattached to pleasing others and trust that you have something to share. Stay connected to what feels like a strong pull for you to offer your community. Maybe it is hosting a circle on the power of forgiveness and tools to do so. Trust yourself and what you feel excited about. Know that anyone can show up to a public circle so do a bit of homework on how to successfully be a guide, and how to stay on track with your intention, minimize getting pulled off course and or distracted by others, and hold your boundaries. If you are creating a private circle then this may not be as important because likely those you have chosen to gather with are on a similar page as you. Just know there is an art to group dynamics. Some groups may need rules, boundaries, confidentiality agreements and/or manifestos. Here is the Circle Manifesto I use for circles and retreats and your welcome to.
4. PICK A THEME
Having a theme for the circle is a helpful way to guide the energy and conversation into a certain direction that you’d like to explore. It’s like having a map- not essential but could get you “there” faster. Pick a topic that is speaking to you personally, a topic or idea you are curious about, or maybe something you know about but want to learn more. A good rule is to pick a topic that keeps coming up in your life. This isn’t about you knowing everything about this topic but about having a willingness to explore the topic with the group, to learn from others and to learn from the process of giving time and energy to the topic. Themes I have held circles on are: exploring the seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) and how the seasons affect us, the questions and curiosities of each season, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Trust, Surrender, Transformation, Birthing, Death, Beauty, Dance, Menstruation, Movement, Soul, A Grateful Heart, Letting Go, Joy, Story telling, Welcoming in the New, Generosity, Self Care, Self Love, Rooting, Grounding, Earth and the topics go on and on….
5. INSPIRE EACH OTHER!
Use tools in the circle that inspire you and others. For example, reading poetry, or reading aloud a powerful passage in a book you are reading, a meaningful quote you recently heard or have memorized, share a story that was impactful, or a myth, or a legend that speaks to you. A circle inspires ideas and gets the juices flowing. Share with the circle something in your life that is getting your juices flowing. These are beautiful ways to take one out of left brain thinking and into right brain creative openness. The poem for example could be related to the circles theme or a related topic that supports the circles purpose. Personally, I draw inspiration from working with cross-cultural ritual and ceremony, rhythm, song, movement, inquiry, deep questions, poetry, art, and mindfulness. These help guide my circles into greater intimacy, depth and wholeness.
6. TRUST YOURSELF + EACH OTHER!
There is no “wrong" or “right" way to circle. Freedom! Trust your intuitive knowing and the fact that your ancestors circled and it is in your blood memory. You are likely drawn to circling if you are reading this so take this as a sign that you value the importance of ceremony and gathering with your sisters and that you likely have an inner knowing that this will bring you greater wellness so be your own healer and take the next step that is inspiring and awaiting you. A book that my friend, Holly one of the women whom has attended my circles has created to help women circle is called 'Gather Like A Goddess’ she wrote it after attending my circles and it’s designed to help ladies feel ready to circle! I love her and support her book and her rocking documentary called The Goddess Project and could be a great movie to watch at your circle one night!
I’m here for you as you circle! Please feel free to reach out with questions, concerns and struggles as you find your way! and or reach out when your heart id filled with soul contentment as you reclaim circling!