Enlivening the circle’s centre with artifacts

Intention and center are the most basic components of the circle. Intention holds the rim and sets the parameter. Center holds the heart and the mindfulness of why we’ve gathered.
— The Circle Way, page 48

Reading Reverend Patricia’s story on using Circle in spiritual community, I gave thought to how she created beauty and sacred space with “artifacts”, the personal items that we bring to the circle’s centre.

The conscious placement and use of the circle’s center is a significant contribution from The Circle Way to modern conversational methodologies.

Our first circles were situated around the cook fires that also gave heat, light and social space. These fires were carefully tended. So too, today’s conversation circles need tending. Inviting in something tangible becomes a symbolic representation of the group’s intention, the circle’s purpose. These artifacts can then be used to help each person “check in”, making the transition from social to circle space, making clear individual and group intention and purpose.

Host Brings the Artifacts

1. The host can begin to “set” the center with flowers, a candle reminiscent of that first fire, or some objects signifying the circle’s purpose.

When I’m introducing circle in settings where I anticipate reluctance or apprehension, I’ll create a simple centre congruent with setting’s context and the circle’s purpose. To add that touch of simple beauty. I’ll speak to this as the “intangible third point between people” (The Circle Way, page 22), the common ground to where we can speak our stories, in contrast to addressing each other face to face.

“The center provides a neutral space where diversity of thought, stories of sorrow and outrage and heartfulness, can be held and considered by all participant.” (The Circle Way, page 22)

2. The host can place a collection of artifacts into the centre to be used for the check-in:

  • The host asks participants in the beginning to take one of the objects.
  • Then he asks the check-in question and invites a bit of quiet reflection before responding to what the chosen object represents or means to each participant. Remember, passing and circling back is permitted as sometimes people need time shift from their nonverbal, intuitive selection, into verbalization.
  • Possible artifacts are:
    • Items from nature - stones, pine cones, flowers
    • Collection of postcards or art pictures
    • An assortment of sweet and salty snacks
    • Little toy figures
    • An assortment of old keys
    • Use your imagination

Participant Brings the Artifact

1. The invitation and preparation notes to the participants will include the request to bring an object that will placed in the centre, symbolizing or representing to them, the stated circle’s purpose, or their intention, best hope for participating.

2. During check-in they show and explain what and why they brought it and then place it in the center.

3. At the final check-out, each participant retrieves their object and may speak to their intention or best hope realized, the value of time spent.

The center prepared the space, and bringing an object to the center prepared us. When I looked around to choose an object for the center, it required thinking about how I was coming to the meeting. Our center enabled a clear quality of arrival in us.
— The Circle Way, page 48

Acknowledgement and appreciation to The Circle Way Global Colleagues, Robin Caruthers, Matthias zur Bonsen, Nancy Fritsche Eagan and Amanda Fenton for their seminal contributions.

Katharine Weinmann is an established practitioner, teacher and board member of The Circle Way.  Skilled in the artistry of deep listening, she notices and names elements of the emotional and shadowed fields so energy is freed for new possibilities and deeper connections.  As “companion,” she holds an unwavering appreciation for the inner life as a valuable and necessary source of creative and wise response to perplexing complexity.  A writer of life’s rescued moments, a lover of an evocative poem, with a new impression gleaned from travel or a “deep breakfast” conversation, Katharine brings appreciation for each of us making our way, to make a better way.  Oh, and she’s also a wicked cook who specializes in creating one-off “silk purses” from leftovers in the fridge!