Archive: A case for online circles

by Anna Singh Deo
January/February 2014

This post has been moved from its original location at and archived here, so you can continue to access it.

It is a delight for us to share this circle tale from friend and colleague Anna Singh Deo. She does a wonderful job of describing how her skepticism about online circles is dissipated by experience.

Anna Singh Deo, certified as a Buddhist Chaplain by Upaya Zen Center in 2011, is experienced in the fields of wildlife biology, environmental clean-up, as well as grief, bereavement and end-of-life-care. She currently resides on Whidbey Island in Washington state and makes regular forays into big wild landscapes of Idaho mountains.

I am most comfortable in circle when warm-hands-touch-warm-hands, when the rim gathers round a crackling fire holding center, and the full arc of a vast night sky radiates the glistening cosmos. My bone marrow is warmed. This, for me, is Home. My heart resonates and opens naturally in circle. Some ancient knowing returned, reconnecting that which has been left behind somewhere along the trail of these modern lifeways. You can imagine then, how surprising it was when I recently found myself immersed and attentive in an online circle.

Had I been asked to participate beforehand, I would have tactfully declined. However, in one instant, with the click of a single computer’s send button, the call had been cast out for participation in this particular electronic circle. And so, it was formed. No advanced planning or notice—just a call to share in response to the sudden passing of a friend’s son. No preparation or registration required. Upon receiving that first email message, I became one of many holding the rim. All circled around the blue hue of a computer screen, rather than the red and yellow flames of a fire. Some of us were in Australia, others in Europe, still others in Canada, and most of us in the U.S. Shared intention connected us all, to hold a strong rim that created a supportive and sacred container for our friends during this time.

Immediately and quite unexpectedly, I was absolutely present and drawn in--intently listening and hearing the words. Many sentiments of rim-mates from around the world were all sent toward the center, held somewhere in the ethers. I responded from my deep heart. Sometimes, simply exhaling with the seemingly audible ring of a bell. Sometimes, moved to type written word in electronic reply offering another strand for the weave at the center. Deep sharing and connection existed during those few days of electronic circling, although I would not know the faces or voices that sat on that rim if I passed them on the street or heard them in conversation today. 

Something potent and profound happened in that online circle! Indeed, it was a privilege to participate in such a gathering of depth and integrity--an experience of modern technology in its highest, for sure! And, as a result, some kind of switch got flipped inside me. Stunning to feel personally transformed by, of all things, an online experience. This wilderness-loving technology-resistant woman got re-wired.  Something inside was re-routed. More than ever before, I can see how the instantaneous nature of technology now spanning this planet carries great potential for service.  How the click of a single computer button sends a call, inviting a profound experience of circle echoing those gathered around fire for millennia.  Maybe, the pale blue hue of this electronic screen I now sit in front of isn’t so bad after all…?