We gathered in concentric circles, like the rings on a tree that show its age, in a small community hall this week, to sing songs that celebrated our friend, who had just died. With those in the innermost circle leading the songs, we sang together, folk favourites of the deceased. Combined with other remembrances, food, and conversation, it made for a rich and moving time.
Song circles, like the one for my friend, acknowledge the power of the circle, as a process, a way for community to come together, support one another, and connect to one another.
The ritual of, and respect for, the circle goes back to our cave dwelling days, sitting around the fire. I’m often surprised we don’t apply the circle more, in our work, as a way to solve problems, build relationships, and more.
Sitting around a table, in a local watering hole, a few days ago, with 8 other local dispute resolution professionals, the topic of circles galvanized our attention. Especially, after one of my mediation colleagues told us about some of the organizational work he was doing, assisting employees who routinely work in high-stress occupations. Through 3-day circle workshops, with chairs arranged in a circle, sans tables, a dozen individuals would each share those events that had shaped their life, and once done, relate those events to the way they dealt with current problems and challenges. Listening to stories, gaining insight into motivations, and collaborating on strategies, all done, building on the circle process.
People are continually looking for new ways to problem-solve. Maybe it’s the old ways that need to be given their due, again? And maybe we are coming around more to the value of those old ways. Maybe we are breathing life into something we thought was dead?
For many of us, sitting in a circle, without anything between you and the others, can make us uncomfortable, at least initially. Yet, when I observe circles being used in restorative justice, workplace conflict, in schools, in community reconciliation� I feel uplifted. Could we be trending, here?
Being together in circles is re-connecting with tradition, and what’s more, connecting with our inner calling, as social animals. I’m certain the intention of Google to use circles as the basic unit of organizing people, in Google+, is recognition of the power, and evergreen, nature of circles.
How about you? Where do you observe circles making a comeback? And, where would you like to see them used more?