Talking circles may be the most recognizable form of circle, and would include discussion groups, support groups, and councils. In some forms of the talking circle, like the Quaker meeting, the inspiration to speak springs from a deep well of silence while in other forms, talking is continuous, starting with each participant saying something as the talking stick, or other object, moves around the circle. Talking circles may have conversation and reflection as their main goals, or they may have other intentions such as taking a stand on local issues, supporting each other’s goals, or becoming more inclusive as a community. As a general intention, consciousness-raising is a broad but effective focus for any group of people whose goal is self-discovery. The simplest talking circles can evolve into the necessity for collaboration, which may lead to the larger council, possibly made up of smaller circles, and often requiring an experienced facilitator to keep the group focused on the task at hand.
Other kinds of circles include lunar and seasonal celebrations in which music, art, drum, dance, song, and stories play important roles. Of course, each of these human rites can be enjoyed separately in a circle of their own. Circles can overlap and blend intentions, as when an artist support group engages in conversation as well as art projects. There are as many forms of the circle as there are intentions, and as many creative ways to realize those intentions in circle. Circles can meet one time or occasionally, or they may agree upon a schedule to ensure their continuity. Ongoing circles meet weekly, monthly, seasonally, or in whatever cycle seems appropriate for the group. They may be casual, fun, and non-demanding, or focused on deep emotional and spiritual growth.
A circle may choose an informal unwritten structure, or its members may choose to form a civic association by writing a mission statement. An ongoing circle may choose to incorporate by registering with the state, and when it has bylaws and its goals and activities meet either the criteria for non-profit organizations or churches, may apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS. The Board of Directors or other decision-making group may choose to require consensus in certain situations, and the organization may also invite participation in decision-making by its members. If you choose to adopt a more formal structure, you can write your bylaws with certain principles of the circle in mind, assigning equal powers and responsibilities to everyone in a leadership position, advocating consensus, and empowering your membership.
Circles in Action
Another natural outgrowth of the circle is the intentional community where people cooperate to create a life together by sharing land, housing, childcare, food, transportation, and other resources as they see fit. Co-housing, cooperative associations, and land-based intentional communities may choose to adopt a legal structure in which members share responsibilities and leadership, make major decisions by consensus, and meet each other as equals in weekly circles.