What is circling?
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
Circling is hard to summarise in a couple of sentences. If you already feel inclined to give it a go, that is the best way to find out what circling is. For the curious, here's my word picture about circling.
The first thing I notice is a resistance to answering this question in words! Thinking about circling takes me into awareness of my body first. Checking in with myself is how I begin each circle: noticing what it is like to be me, right now. I become aware of parts of my experience that are particularly loud and clear, perhaps an aching neck or the comfort of sitting in my chair. Then I bring my attention to my breath, usually finding after a minute that I feel calmer and more centred.
From this place of feeling centred, I expand my awareness to allow in what’s around me. I often notice sounds first. Then, I become conscious of the presence of the other people in the circle. The way it impacts me will be different every time. The moment of opening to connection with others is, to me, the start of the circle.
Circling is a practice of being with each other in the present moment. It has no agenda, and precisely the lack of anything to do is very powerful. As we practice, we gain awareness of different parts of our experience. In that way, it is similar to meditation. However, as a committed meditator, I have been amazed by how transformative it is to do this with other people. Every circle is different, but they usually involve sharing with each other what we are noticing about our thinking, physical sensations and emotions. We follow our curiosity about what it is like to be me, to be you, and to be with each other.
The most common format of a circle is a ‘birthday’ circle, where the group explores one person’s world for a period of time (perhaps 20 minutes). Another kind of circling is known as ‘surrendered leadership’, where there is no predetermined focus and we explore what emerges in the group, moment to moment. To support the group to circle, we usually start a session with some exercises in pairs to highlight skills we might try out.
Is circling for me?
You will enjoy circling if you are curious and willing to accept the risks of sharing from your authentic experience. Every circle is different - like the rest of life, but more so! It can be deeply connecting one day and hilarious the next. It is very rich!
While everyone’s journey is as unique as they are, I’ve tracked a few commonalities in people who circle regularly (I’m sure there are more):
expansion of experience / bringing the subconscious into consciousness
increase in a feeling of aliveness / awareness of energy in the body
deepening connections with others / noticing that other kinds of relating are possible.
Some people become more aware of the wisdom of their somatic (bodily) experience. Others are able to get a fresh perspective on behaviour patterns. For many, there is something deeply transformative and healing about being seen as ourself, in a group context.
In theory, you can circle with any number of people, although the number has a big impact on the feel of the circle. With people who are new to the practice, my sense is that between 3 and 8 circlers is a good number.
I also love one-to-one circles, where I co-explore with someone what it is like to be them. This is a type of personal development coaching. I find that one-to-one work is well suited to intensively supporting people in their own flourishing.
I’m interested. How can I try circling?
I facilitate every other Tuesday online, for the Communication Dojo. These sessions are offered as part of the gift economy. Donations are welcome but not expected.
I am currently travelling to different communities around the world, and I will be leading in-person circling in those locations when possible.
There are regular circling events in London, which you can find on the Authentic Relating and Circling meetup page.
Circling Europe runs online taster sessions on a regular basis, so you can try it out for free.
I also run one-off events such as "Circling from the Embodied Feminine". If you would like to stay informed about online or in person groups I’m running, please message me through the website or send me an email.
I am also excited to offer one-to-one circling sessions. If this speaks to you, you can book a free 60 minute introductory session on Zoom (or in person if we are in the same location!).