As a recipient of a grant from The Circle Way, Bobbie Goodman shares her experience of circle at “Self as Source of Story,” a twice-yearly writing retreat hosted by our founder Christina Baldwin at Aldermarsh on Whidbey Island, Washington.
Circle as Lived Experience
I have just completed a week-long immersion in the workshop called “Self As Source of Story”. For three years I had been trying to attend Christina Baldwin’s writing workshop. Ever since I completed a wilderness Vision Quest with Ann Linnea and Christina, I had anticipated a new dive into the wilderness of words. Obstacles had necessitated repeated rescheduling. Finally, I arrived on Whidbey island and found myself pondering why I was here.
A life of over seven decades had surely provided plenty of raw data for several books and countless commentaries, but why the magnetic draw to this workshop? I’d had a less than intimate relationship with writing most of my life so what was up with this current life activity?
A very warm welcome to a very beautiful retreat site was a good beginning. But it was stepping into Circle that my questions began to be answered.
“Step right up and have a seat” a circus barker could have been calling. “Free upgrades! You are welcome here. Sit down and know that you have been given a courtesy upgrade. Here all will be fed on many levels with generous portions of acceptance, attention and appreciation.”
We twelve women were drawn here by our deep introspective natures and by our desire to share our inner search for meaning through the written word. We came from all over the globe (From Canada and the USA west coast to the east coast and all the way from South Africa!) and took our seats in the circle. The light of the Spring afternoon filled the room as the central hearth fire was kindled and we began the process of building the altar and anchoring a spoke from each one of us to that center. Christina passed out a few handouts and shared some container-creating suggestions as everybody snuggled into the lap of the circle.
I have for the past two decades been in many circles as both participant and leader. I have seen PeerSpirit Circle form (The Circle Way), as created and shared by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, effectively support meaningful communication and connection in a wide variety of settings from the AZ Council of Grandmothers to small intimate family gatherings. But there on Whidbey Island, I experienced circle created and lived in a most organic, natural, relaxed and attentive manner. No designated timekeeper, guardian bell rarely needed, and no feeling of constraining rules were felt. A deep appreciation of the potential applications of circling as a path for fostering life lived in community. Where deep sharing of life stories, dramas, questions, insights, feelings and learning tools to further our becoming connected members of the human race can naturally unfold.
And so, we spent the next five days living, learning, and writing. Some members were already deep into their own memoir, or fiction novel or integration of life experiences while others were just beginning with “Once upon a time...”. For myself, i have been flirting with writing about my travel adventures for over a decade and i feel that at last i have been able to write the opening to the book that is waiting to be read.
Yes, this was an experience of Circle as a lived experience. Not separate from life. Authentic and compassionate interconnectedness between inwardly connected beings who care for themselves and others. Sounds like the promised golden age! I am encouraged to keep on living and sharing and working with The Circle Way.
Bobbie Goodman is a lifelong seeker who began her professional career as a psychiatric nurse. She became a Gestalt therapist and group leader in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Human Potential movement and Encounter groups were beginning and flourishing. She was a founding member of The Kachina Institute in Tucson AZ. The longing for deeper Truth led her to become a student of Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist spiritual teachers in the decades that followed. Led to a PeerSpirit circle, she saw the potential for integrating a variety of her past interests. This had much application over the twelve years when she and her husband took others on spiritual pilgrimages to Bali.