My Circling Story
Circling found me in late 2014 in the middle of one of those karmic situations that has a person hopping from one life into another and then out again like it was a hot frying pan. Inside the maelstrom were a lot of gifts and one of those was being introduced to Jordan Allen. Jordan was young and adorable and very catnip-like, if one were a cat. He was a brilliant circling facilitator and is part of the Circling Europe leadership team. Of course I would go where he invited me, which was to join a Circling night that he was hosting while traveling through Dallas. Over the course of that night, I fell in love. Not with Jordan, although he is extremely lovable. I fell in love with the space that was held by him and created by all of us in the room that night. He led us through some ice breaker type Authentic Relating games and then we all circled up in our chairs and got going into a type of relating that I had never experienced before. We were just there, immediate and surreal, in presence with each other and with our own bodies and with what felt like a dangerous absence of rules. Anything could happen, a lot of things did happen, and the space of connection that it all happened in had my heart. At the end of the night, I felt like I had been given a look into a new world, abducted from my known relational constructs and plopped right down into a parallel civilization where people used their voices, their vulnerability, their truths, and their bodily experiences in ways that I'd never seen. See, I grew up in New England, the land of the stoic. A culture where the less anything was talked about the better and if one were to start speaking of their real time experiences of felt connection one would possibly be cast out of the clan altogether. I had no idea that there were people gathering the world over to connect and communicate in such raw and tender ways. My soul felt like it was transported from a world filled with alien customs to suddenly arrive back with my people. Lord knows, I had longed beyond the beyond for a land where people spoke so openly and held each other so honestly and opened themselves to being seen so courageously. This was suddenly available and I poured all my shortcomings, my shame, and my hope into these opportunities to share what I was in each moment - something real used to living in a world of judgement, faking, and hiding. That world was so hard for me to bear. And I saw, as I started fueling my connection addiction with workshops, that I had so much work to do to get from stoicism to intimacy. I began training to facilitate Circles in early 2015 with Circling Europe. For six months I dove in as deep as I could, living with my cohorts and just doing a total immersion. Afterwards, I went on to participate in the thriving Austin Circling community and traipsed around with all three major schools of Circling as a trainee, participant, and production assistant. When Circling Europe started Circle Anywhere in 2017, I was right there with them, cutting my teeth on learning to facilitate online Circles, sometimes with small groups and sometimes very large.
The practice has infused every interaction I've has since 2014 and underlies all my communication and my other facilitations. I absorbed it like incense through the air while the whole time learning and struggling with my own inner work that all this Circling was revealing to me. I needed such delicate handling when I was learning and training in Circling. I didn't get that in the way my nervous system needed it and found it hard to resource in myself, and this manifested in too much of a push-pull inside me of wanting to connect and needing to create extreme boundaries. Which was great, because I had so much boundaries work to do. So I made Circling something I was going to merge with, to completely embody, in the way I related to myself and the world. Every day. And for a few years I did this without Circling with anyone else. I knew how important connection work was for me but I couldn't handle the reality of it until my own nervous system was ready. Until then I was so conflicted and deeply resistant, and had to practice on the very down low. And one day the desire to Circle with others and the desire for connection came all on their own. And I saw that my capacity for holding space was huge and that actually illuminated for me how beautifully crafted and intact my boundaries are. And I attribute this to the practice itself, taking its time, working itself through so many layers of conditioning and trauma.
Folks, there is absolutely nothing like community to help a human being do the integration they need for their growth. I didn't see that modeled growing up and to see it as an adult with baggage was both revelatory and completely destructive to all the constructs I'd built my persona on. They crumbled, both with and without my express consent. My relationship to Circling became a love/hate kind of thing. I was so drawn to continued connection and I wanted to get the hell out of town regularly as various shadows took over and shames were uncovered. And yet, the freedom was irresistible. As I began to more deeply internalize skills and as my nervous system began to regulate, I kept finding that the love of Circling for me was in my own deep internal desire to be with another, to be as intimate as possible within the respected boundaries of another. This drive is just innate to me, and is part, I believe of what makes me capable of holding high quality space. This drive took me a long time to recognize as love. Just an innate outflowing of love. That was when I fell back in love with it all. I could unleash in the world, finally, all my non-jaded bits. I was safe to seek love and connection because I was innately protected by my embodiment of the drive to connect. Circling is the perfect practice for me because I'm forever curious about your world.
What Are The More Intellectual Details Of Circling?
What is it like to be you? That is a question that Circling asks and offers the answer through the mirror of relating. The experience of being held by others in the kind of connection that heals what's been tweaked and pinched and squished by others in their innocent lack understanding leads us to talk about Circling's five basic principles. Here they are:
Commitment to Connection - Presence to whatever's arising in you, between you and another, or in another. Being with what is even when what is is the desire for things to be different.
Owning Your Experience - You speak for you, others speak for themselves. Being accountable for speech and action, allowing others to be responsible for themselves, with an eye to letting go of the outcome.
Staying With The Level of Sensation - True embodiment practice of including the sensations of the body in relational expression. The direct experience of sensation is allowed to be alive without interpretation.
Trusting Experience - This is a very nuanced principle. Trusting experience happens before we bring meaning to it. And it can be very tricky to not give meaning but to stay in the experience itself until it reveals itself. Bringing inherent trust that whatever is being experienced is true, even as it constantly changes, is very activating for the nervous system. Honoring and trusting real time experience as well as the experience of the other as connection unfolds regulates the nervous system, over time.
Being With The Other In Their World - Meeting the other where they are and exploring their world with curiosity and offering insight. Experiencing what it's like for you to be in connection with them. Stepping out of intellectual understanding and into another's experience in real time cocreation.
These are the structures that the container is built upon and these are the distillations of self-responsibility and self-trust that Circling offers. The principles serve relational connection, healing, nervous system regulation, authentic empowered self-expression, ability to be intimate with strangers, embodied authority and embodied wisdom. The container itself alchemizes knowledge into wisdom. Inside relationship with others is the alchemy we seek, relationship with others who offer us infinite space in which to be. Because it's a non-directive practice, the facilitator exists to uphold the principles and to use self as a source connection for the container.
Circling asks the following questions indirectly, and every Circle is an invitation to explore your answers and insights. What is it like to be with another? What is it like to experience your own presence? What is it like to be witnessed by others in truthful expression? What it it like to take full responsibility for your language? What is it like to become intimate with your own reality from a place of curiosity and how does that extend to others? What is it like to free your own presence and engage from your core self? What are the embodied qualities of others? How fully can you step into their experiences and perceptions? With what ease can you delineate boundaries while feeling unbounded? The immediacy of having no constructs between you and yourself, your expression, and your participation in relationships is incredible in the possibility it holds for taking on perspectives that move us into community and co-creation, and into lives of feeling seen and of becoming master space-holders for the authentic emergence of others.
So to try to end this in a more heady and cerebral way, Circling is simple experiential connection held skillfully in a container of allowing but also infinite expressive freedom and self-responsibility. It is an alchemy space. A most striking thing to me about Circling is the amount of release and relief it offers to those of us starved for self-expression and connection. When Human Design & the Gene Keys found me it was clear that the connection between the two was one that should be explored. There's a clarity that Human Design & the Gene Keys bring to one's life, and I would like to help bridge the knowledge into embodied wisdom. Exploring Human Design & the Gene Keys through the practice of Circling is exciting to me.
It comes down to this for me: community is everything, and authentic expression - where and whenever we can practice it - is the great healer. Often overlooked are the simplest beauties, luxuries, and abilities. The ability to have the inner space to navigate another person's humanity is utterly extraordinary. As our hearts are continuing to dominate our lives more and more, the healing we can offer each other in the Holding Space reflects the capacity of nature to hold and heal us. The values of nature are reflected in the Circling space. We hold connection in its rightful place as healer, and expression in its creation power. Since most of us grew up in a society in which boundaries were generally not respected, we've had to practice. In Circling lives a principled and boundaried container wherein full self-expression is not only allowed but is there in service to the inclusivity of being seen, free of the conditioned judgement that kills the creative force. Its purpose is radical surrendered self-leadership. Its methodology is connection.
I use Circling to facilitate sacred counsel. 1:1 Circling sessions are one hour and are donation-based. Group and couple sessions are also available. This work is deep and powerful. Holding counsel is nothing like talk therapy.
What happens in a Circle?
There are two kinds of Circles - group and birthday. They are anywhere from 20-45 minutes long on average. A group Circle begins with the facilitator bringing the attention of the group to the group. All being to notice and express in real time through whatever qualities the unfolding connection has. A birthday Circle is where on person receives all of the group's attention. All I want to tell you right now is that it's magical. The intention for the group is to explore what it's like to be the person being Circled and to share the experience of being with them as they are. Both Circling types use the five principles as common frames for the connection.
What are the benefits of Circling?
If you're here, you probably already have an idea of what's calling to you but on a personal level, I'll always answer that it's connection. We need connection. Circling mainlines connection - to self and to other, regardless of the condition of the self or the possible unfamiliarity of the other. Other important details:
greater emotional range
body, mind, and emotional integration
forward motion based in nervous system regulation
being able to live out the fact that other people need your unique light
access to new depths of increasing power
greater capacity for intimacy, including with strangers
comfort and even delight with the unknown
continuous feedback in connection to others
experiences of group magic
testing the mind's knowledge through practice
self-trust and embodiment of authority
visceral embodiment of connection
taking intuitive hits into the realm of embodiment and only keeping what fits
integration of shadow aspects
skills to utilize conflict to move from polarity to integration
greater sense of wellbeing when in groups or when speaking
Here is a short video with the founders of Circling Europe speaking about their first experiences with Circling