What you hope to accomplish in this circle. The intention is the circle’s mission statement, its reason for being, and its barometer of success. The intention may be simple, for example to get everyone dancing, or it may be complex as in supporting each others’ vision over time or strategizing local environmental reforms; however, the intention should be expressed as simply as possible while still including your key goals.

The Center:
The heart of the circle. The center of the circle is the common ground shared by all participants, the place of safety, silence, and “centering.” When the center is clearly defined by the group (see Process below), all are reminded of its importance to the circle.

Agreements: The following are common agreements in circle. Choose the ones that make the most sense for your intention. Keep it simple – you can always add more when needed:

Attention – the circle is a sacred or special space deserving our full attention.
Responsibility – leadership is shared within the circle on a voluntary basis.
Confidence – what is said in circle remains with the circle.
Acceptance – Avoid blaming, preconceived notions, or judgments of others.
Listening – Ask for clarification if you are not sure what someone means.
Consensus – Unanimous agreement indicates that the circle values its members.
Majority Rule – The circle may agree to make some decisions by majority rule.
Conflict – When difficulties in communication arise, pause for silent reflection on center.
Honesty – Speak from your own experience and belief, rather than speaking for others.
Talking Piece – Whoever holds the talking piece has the floor and must not be interrupted.
Time – Participants agree to limit their contributions to a specific length of time.
Sounder – Strike a small bell, shaker, or other sound to signal time or call for silence.
Facilitation – A volunteer keeps circle focused, calls for silence, or clarifies agreements.
Sensitivity – Ask before touching. Avoid perfumes. No smoking unless group agrees.
Safety – No hate words, name-calling, threats of violence, or personal attacks.
Respect – Make eye contact, show appreciation, and avoid pity or condescension.
Fun – Enjoy yourself and others. Have a sense of humor. Be silly when appropriate.
Inclusivity – Make an effort to invite people to the circle who are different than you.
Exclusivity – Only people of a certain gender, age, vocation, etc. are invited to the circle.
Continuity – Ask the group before inviting anyone new to the circle.
Children – Do not expect the group to take care of your children unless they agree to.
Change – Agreements can be revised by the group at any time, generally by consensus.
Exceptions – All rules may be bent or broken by group consensus.

What to bring: Be specific about anything you want participants to bring to the circle. Whether you want them to have pen and paper on hand, musical instruments, flowers, or food, be sure you let everyone know in advance how they can contribute to the intention of the circle.

The Process

The Center: To help people recognize where the circle will be, bring basket of flowers, a candle, a pine wreath, or even a sign that says “Circle here!” You may ask participants to bring any objects that are symbolic of their hopes or fears regarding the intention of the circle, and place these on a table or cloth as a kind of altar. Just be sure that objects will not obscure participants’ view of each other while in circle. If someone does bring an object that is too large, leave it in the center while people are gathering, but then move it to the side just before the opening of the circle. You can outline the center with a piece of ribbon or rope, or use other decorative ways to make the circle more visible.

Opening: Sounding a gong or bell, or sending a whispered call to circle around the room is usually enough to get everyone to gather or you can simply announce “Ok, let’s form a circle!” You can begin by holding hands, leading the participants to the circle, and waiting a few moments for everyone to join the circle of hands.

Actually “opening” the circle is more than just gathering, it is the signal to participants to enter sacred or special space, a time and place deserving our full attention. A moment of silence while still holding hands is one way to do get people to focus on your shared intention. Lighting a candle is another wonderful way to signal the opening of the circle. We don’t recommend incense unless everyone in the group agrees, as some people are sensitive to strong smells. Making a sound from a bell or gong, or listening to a piece of recorded music can be effective ways to open the circle. Reading an inspiring passage from a book or poem, or singing a song together also work well. Like silence, chanting, toning, or body-drumming connects us in a non-verbal way and need no special materials. You may wish to begin your circle with shared movements, a great way to relax and center. Some folks like to begin by facing the different directions as a way of “mapping” the circle physically and spiritually according to Celtic and Native American traditions. Choose whatever way works best for your intention and your group. Feel free to create your own unique opening or to change your opening to try something new.

Activities: Choose activities that best fulfill the specific intention of your circle and that you feel comfortable explaining to others. Try to have just a few more activities than you will actually have time for. This allows you to pick the activities that are best suited for the group that actually shows up to your circle, to discard activities that seem more difficult to instruct to a larger crowd, or to pick the activities conducive to a smaller, more intimate gathering. Having just a few extras will give you a greater sense of confidence as the Caller of the circle. Remember that you are not “in charge” of the circle, but you are the person who needs to be the most prepared, at least for that first circle.

Notecards work very well for keeping your specific activities and instructions on hand– just be sure you have whatever is necessary to create a circle based on your specific intention. Read the agreements aloud after the opening of the circle. It is not necessary for new or occasional circles to vote on them unless that is part of your intention. After the agreements are read, you will probably want to go once around the circle in a “round robin,” asking for everyone to share thoughts and feelings on why they came.

After this initial check-in, it’s up to you! Verbal or non-verbal, wild or tame, anything can happen in between opening and closing as long as your intention is clear and people are in agreement. Let people know how long they have for these activities and stick to your time schedule as much as possible. People usually like to know when things begin and end.

Closing: After completing the activities, call everyone back to center. Discuss the date, time, place and intention for your next meeting, and how to divide up responsibilities, if participants choose to make this an ongoing circle. Have a final “Once Around” to let people express their thoughts or feelings about their experience. The circle can be brought to a close by any of the suggested ways for opening.

Circle Essentials

One thought on “Circle Essentials

  • February 28, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Jest seeing if this really works!

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