C I R CLE P RAC TICE
Continued from page 17
with circles so I will speak to circle practice
in detail, but want to acknowledge the im-
portance of mindfulness as well. These two
practices are strong partners.
What is Circle Practice?
The circle is a structured dialog process that
allows every participant an opportunity to
speak and encourages attentive listening
and truth-telling. Participants sit in a circle
free of any table or obstacles in the center.
They pass a talking piece which regulates the
speaking. Participants may only speak when
they hold the talking piece, allowing the
circle to create equality of voice and dignity.
Consequently no one is interrupted while
speaking. Each person has the opportunity
to speak their truth but cannot assume the
truth for anyone else. Participants discuss
shared values before trying to do work to-
gether, and they work on building relation-
ships before trying to achieve any task.
The circle begins with an opening cer-
emony and ends with a closing ceremony,
which mark the circle as a space apart, a
space where participants are invited to drop
the usual masks and protections that they
wear. The circle nurtures connections and
empathy while honoring the uniqueness
of each participant, and can hold pain, joy,
despair, hope, anger, love, fear, and paradox.
The circle welcomes difficult emotions and
difficult realities while maintaining a sense
of positive possibilities. Decisions are made
by consensus; the will of a majority cannot be
imposed on a minority. The circle is deeply
Page 18 Winter 2019
Circle is a powerful tool
for cultural transforma-
tion, for changing how
members of a commu-
nity treat each other
every day, all day long.
rooted in an understanding of profound inter-
connectedness as the nature of the universe.
Circle practice emerged initially as a re-
sponse to behavior difficulties. However,
circle is not just an intervention strategy, it
is also a community building strategy that
prevents behavior difficulties. Ultimately, I
believe circle is even more important in its
capacity to strengthen relationships and
build a culture of mutual care than it is for
its capacity to resolve conflict and harm.
Circle is a powerful tool for cultural trans-
formation, for changing how members of a
community treat each other every day, all
Circle Slows Things Down
One of the signs of persistent stress is rush-
ing, moving constantly, always in a hurry,
never enough time... When done properly
circles create a big SLOW DOWN. An open-
ing ceremony starts the SLOW DOWN pro-
cess easing participants into a different