Tips for taking circle on a canoe trip

Reflecting on her time planning and hosting a women’s wilderness canoe trip, Sharon Wichman shares some tips for success.

Don’t minimize the revolutionary importance of “Ask for what you need, offer what you can.”  

This simple, seemingly obvious statement assumes that everyone has something to offer and that every offering is welcome. It assumes that we have a right to state our needs and expect that others will attempt to meet them. And it acknowledges that everyone won’t be treated equally: each of us will have times when we can offer, and other times when we will be asking. To accept those assumptions, we need to recognize our worth separate from our accomplishments, which can be a powerful and revolutionary realization.

Encourage “A leader in every chair” while recognizing the limitations and what needs to be taught so that leadership can be shared.

Sharing the work and responsibility is a wonderful idea which needs to be tempered with the reality of each person’s abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Talking with each person to help identify what they can offer is an excellent first step but doesn’t always provide a complete assessment. When people are asked to lead in ways for which they are not prepared, the leader needs to discern whether to go into teacher/support mode or go ahead and do the task.

While shared responsibility takes some of the workload off the host, it adds a great deal of work on communication.

To relax on the trip and trust others to contribute what they could, I started planning several months in advance and spent many hours communicating with participants via email, phone, and video calls. During the second trip I had a self-appointed guardian who would intervene when she saw me getting overwhelmed by questions. She reminded the questioners that they had the capacity to find the answers for themselves, a huge relief when I needed some rest.

Stop frequently to notice and share the beauty.

Beauty feeds the soul and shared beauty connects souls. Slowing down and noticing the flowers, fungi, fish skeletons, squirrels, spiderwebs, clouds, sun, moon, and joy in each other’s faces is a way to inject child-like wonder into our lives.

Whenever possible, find ways to ditch the clock.

Loosening time constraints and following the flow of energy instead of the ticking of the clock creates a spaciousness that allows the energy of the gathering to flow. It can take a while to get comfortable with the looser schedule and inherent uncertainty, but with a strong purpose and attention to energy dynamics, it’s wonderfully freeing to follow our inner clocks and nature’s cycles rather than the superimposed rigidity of the clocks that rule so much of our modern lives.

Photo credit Robert Wichman

Photo credit Robert Wichman


Sharon Wichman is a teacher and geologist by training and has spent much of the past 25 years raising three sons and searching for a way to combine the integrity of circle with teaching. She is most content in the presence of water and rock, preferring to spend at least as much time with trees as with people. These days she can often be found photographing the wonders of nature that surround her or conversing with people online as a mentor for Heather Plett’s Holding Space Coach/Facilitator Program. She sees circles and faces wherever she looks, and her newest passion is turning her photos into kaleidoscopic mandalas.