What Are Conversation Circles?

NOAH
4 min readMay 2, 2023

Circling is a practice that combines the latest insights from cognitive science with philosophy and ancient wisdom. Read the following description to learn more about conversation circles.

Essentially, the goal of conversation circles is to help you find your truth, to explain it effectively while staying open to others, and to develop a deep sense of personal and collective trust.

Circling sessions focus on the fundamental ground of what it means to be human: open connection and communication.

Each session contains unique opportunities to tap into the mystery at the heart of the human experience; revealing new ways of connecting with ourselves, with each other, and with a greater whole.

Responsibility

You are a free being. We assume you are capable of honest self-reflection and responsible action. This is an invitation to take responsibility for:

  • yourself
  • your experience
  • the choices you’re making
  • the beliefs and stories you share
  • how you’re participating in the circle
  • what you’re accepting as true and relevant

You are invited to “lead” yourself in any way you feel is right — taking a break whenever you need, for example. We trust that others are practicing the same sort of self-leadership.

Co-creation

Conversation circles can lead to transformational growth. This is achieved through communication, reflection and surrender— rather than aiming for healing outcomes directly.

Unlike other practices such as coaching or therapy, conversation circles are focused on what’s happening right now. The goal is to open us up to what is present in the moment — both within us and between us.

While honoring a wide variety of different schools of thought, there is no standard therapeutic model of diagnosis or treatment. The emphasis is on authentic human connection.

There are several incorrect expectations about what facilitators should do during conversation circles.

Some examples:

  • telling people what to do
  • stating the “right way” to act
  • making sure we all get along
  • providing a clear interpretation of what is happening, why it is happening and the way it is happening.

Each of us are co-creators of the circle, and we are on the same journey of presence and aliveness. We do not prescribe choices or actions. We are not psychotherapists. We relate to each other in the present moment, assuming that wholeness can induce greater wholeness.

Practice

Every circle session will start with a short meditative practice to bring our attention back to the here and now. This makes us aware of the situation in the present moment. After that, the facilitator(s) will explain the structure of the circle — either free flowing or a more guided format.

Example of a guided circle:

  1. The story teller introduces the theme of the evening. The chosen topic can be personal or generic. Quotes, images or music may be used by the story teller to elucidate their point of view.
  2. People in the circle are invited to ask questions. The goal is to help the story teller dive deeper into the topic. The questions may shine a light on different perspectives, and help the story teller explain their point of view better. The aim is to build understanding.
  3. Eventually we reach a moment when there are no further questions. In this silence we experience a sense of completion. We thankfully accept and embrace this silence.
  4. The facilitators invite the listeners who haven’t asked many questions to share their feedback:
    - where did you agree or disagree?
    - which insights are you taking home?
    - how did you experience the group dynamic?
  5. If there is time and energy, we might repeat step 1 with a different story teller. If not, there is a free flowing format: a chance to share thanks and praises, ask personal feedback, or get to know each other better over tea or drinks (until it’s time to go home).

Is this right for me?

Conversation circles can be deeply meaningful and insightful. We explore the unknown with open minds and hearts.

We may encounter stories or beliefs that are unfamiliar, or feelings many people see as “negative” or “inappropriate” such as inadequacy, anger, sexuality, or doubt. The willingness to feel difficult or uncomfortable things is a commitment we all make. Each participant is asked to communicate their boundaries clearly.

We aim to understand how our narratives about what is happening can change our reality structure, and we try to expose reality structures that are unhealthy or unhelpful.

We often examine multiple sides of seeming opposites at once, such as independence and interdependence, chaos and order, agreement and disagreement. This can be paradoxical.

Some conversations might seem chaotic at first, but we believe it can reveal the underlying reality of what it means to be human.

Disclaimer

If the above description sounds potentially overwhelming, or if you are unsure whether you can be self-directed in taking care of your needs during the circle, we advise you not to take part.

Participation is free for everyone. If you are willing and able to donate you can ask the facilitator(s) for a way to help.

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