Circle practice is one of my favourite methods for gathering.
What draws me to it so much?
Societies, men and women, have gathered in circle since the beginning of time. They would gather in communities around the fire or the cooking pot. They would sit in wisdom councils, they would address decision making, storytell, or celebrate. To this day, many indigenous communities still gather in circle, and circle practice has been brought back into the facilitation world as a form of inviting egalitarianism.
So why can’t circle practice be brought more often into the meeting room?
In my previous blog I pointed out the importance, as a facilitator, to design the space into which you invite people to gather. Designing the room to accommodate a circle is the best form of letting people know, without uttering a word, that they are going to be co-creators and contributors, not just passive "receivers".
I have hosted and been hosted in many circles. The largest one I personally hosted was around 50 participants. I have sat in ones with over 80 participants and danced in others that had hundreds. There is no real limit to how many people you can fit in a circle (except the limit of physical space), and that's the beauty of it!
I have seen some take shape of a spiral to accommodate all into the space. You can get creative with how you design it, but don’t think that big numbers of participants should deter you from using this practice. In fact, the only reason many steer clear from hosting large circles is simply that they do not feel prepared to handle the depth or transformation that will emerge from such a large group, or that there is not enough time (and dedicating time to listen to every voice in the circle does need to be accounted for).
Why do I advocate for Circle Practice? Here are a few pointers that I hope will convince you why to use this beautiful and equally POWERFUL way to gather:
1. A circle has no beginning and no end. It also has no hierarchy. Those who gather in circle are acknowledging the equal presence of everyone in the circle.
2. A circle has a centre. The centre reminds everyone that they are equidistant form the theme at heart, and all then project their energy and focus to this centre, rather than to each other. The centre becomes the collective focal point that brings them together, rather than focusing on the divisiveness of their opinions, backgrounds, or ideas.
3. Everyone is able to see each other, and there are no divides. By being able to see each other, each recognizes their role in listening and speaking, in the co-creation process, and in giving and receiving time and respect.
4. A circle when facilitated well, holds space for transformation. It allows those coming into the circle to feel the power of connection, authenticity and sacredness. One never leaves a circle the same way they entered it.
5. A circle is flexible and can grow and expand or shrink to accommodate the size of the group wishing to take part.
6. Everyone has a voice. In the circle, each person is offered the chance to speak, if they wish. It is their decision to circulate the “talking piece” to others, or to take the time to share their opinion.
Whether you are bringing together 5 people or 50 people at your next meeting, I encourage you to think about Circle Practice as a way to gather them.
Here is what you will need for your circle:
- Time. Depending on the size of your group, consider at least 3 hours for a circle process that invites everyone to share. However, if you want to use Circle Practice only as the Check-in and Check-out processes, I advise you to dedicate about 20 - 30 min each time.
- A beautiful and thoughtful centrepiece. Flowers, images, or other symbolic pieces. Design it to be as inspiring as the conversations that will flow around it.
- Enough chairs, or cushions if you are inviting the group to sit on the floor.
- A talking piece. The talking piece is the object that gets passed around in the circle. It is the measure of time and attention. The person holding it remembers they are holding everyone's time, and everyone else has attention directed to the holder of the talking piece.
- A meaningful "check-in". A check-in is an introductory process checking-in on each member of the circle to see how they are arriving. Start the check-in and circulate the talking piece to your right, inviting each person to share.
- Common practice is to circulate the talking piece twice, in case some wish to not speak in the first round, they have the opportunity to do so in the second round.
- A meaningful "check-out". Similar to a check-in, circulate the talking piece once again at the end to check on how everyone is leaving the circle.
Let's tap into collective wisdom: Here's an observation activity for you.
How often do you find yourself hosting a circle? If you are considering using Circle Practice for your next meeting, I'd love to know WHY? Share with me why in the comments below.