In 2020, I hit an absolute low. My mother had suddenly passed away the previous year, my relationship at the time was tanking, I had to take space from my career as a birth and postpartum Doula to grieve, and then -boom- the pandemic hit, and overnight we went into a complete lock-down. I was living in San Francisco and all of my close friends had left the area. To say I felt lonely and sad is an understatement.
That's when I discovered circling, and everything changed. Within one circle, I had found a place inside me that hadn't been seen in a long time. It was a place that longed to belong and to be understood. It was a place that missed being someone's daughter, or feeling special or important just for being who I am. To justify the hurt parts and not have to minimize or rush past them. To just be who I was, where I was, in all it's glorious messiness.
I later went on to train in the year long Art of Circling program, which helped me do deep transformational work in order to be able to show up in the role of holding space for others. I have learned so much about myself through this practice, it has given me tools in my current relationship that I wouldn't be able to have without it.
Here are 6 ways that circling creates relational magic:
It's gives you the experience of being seen and known for who you are deep down.
We live in a world that values the new, shiny, fast and fun over the old, methodical and slow. As a child, many of us have been told to "stop crying", "that didn't hurt, you're fine", "get over it", and whatever you do, don't inconvenience others with your big emotions. This can be extremely isolating and painful when you grow up in a world trying to augment your experience to fit into others' expectations of you. When all of a sudden, someone gives you permission to be fully you, in your beauty and your pain, there is a deep healing that happens.
It reveals inconsistencies between how you think of yourself and how you actually show up
Have you ever had the experience of thinking you were being one way, only to find out that you were received in a complete different way? These "blind-spots" can be the places where we end up pushing away the connection and love that we so deeply long for and desire. In typical conversations, someone likely won't point out ways that your actions and words or tone and intention are out of alignment. When you become present to the ways of being that were previously unconscious, you have unimaginable access to authenticity, as well as more choice and possibility in your relationships.
It opens you to the immediacy of presence, aliveness, and a state of flow
There is a phenomena known as "flow state" that has been studied and written about for many years. An athlete performing outstandingly, a musician improvising a riff, an artist capturing something deeply moving with their medium. Imagine experiencing this state while in conversation with another, stranger or loved one, and walking away from the conversation feeling revived, renewed, with a new outlook on life. This is what circling does. By paying exquisite attention to the present moment and the moment-to-moment changing experiences of relating with another, you can enter into a state known as embodied awareness. Because of this, circling can also be known as "relational yoga" or "relational meditation".
It allows you to form deep and meaningful connections
Practicing this quality of attention in conversation will set a new standard for how you show up for others, as well as how you expect others to show up for you. From close family members, to strangers on the street, you will begin to naturally foster a level of connection that is much deeper and allows much more spaciousness for people to be who they truly are deep down.
It trains you in the skill of authentic relating
Have you ever struggled to articulate your feelings in important moments? Do you wait until a moment has passed and then live with the regret of things left unsaid? Authentic relating gives you a key to accessing these deep feelings in order to feel better understood and have more agency in your conversations. People are longing for authenticity. When someone is embodied, in their essence, people tend to lean in. Not only this, but it will also teach you the art of getting into someone else's world in a way that has them feeling seen and validated and deeply appreciated. These skills will strengthen not just your intimate relationships, but also friendships, work communications, as well as enable you to feel closer and more at peace with family.
It will catapult you on a path of deep transformation and personal growth
I had no idea when I sat down for my very first circle that I would be opening up a new level of understanding of myself. In just 40 minutes, I was able to experience what my ex partner couldn't give me in a year and a half. Just by sitting with my pain, not being rushed to resolve or coached or given suggestions. I felt an immense weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew that I also wanted to be someone who could help lift the burden off of people's backs. To be considered a safe person that people trusted to hold their hearts without judgement or trying to fix them. As well as to be trusted in my close relationships to share vulnerably when needed, in the moment, so that we can address the issue and get back to close, intimate connecting.
If this sounds like what you are looking for, I encourage you to visit The Circling Institute and watch the 7 Stages of Circling Method that you can access for free on their website. To meet the community, check out one of their online drop in circling nights (currently Thursday nights 6pm - 9pm PST) where you can show up, sink in, and get gotten. I wish you peace on the path to your most radically authentic self!
Art by Vasil Woodland