What Are Listening Circles?

4 min readMay 2


Circling is a novel practice that combines insights from psychology and philosophy with ancient wisdom. Read the following description to learn more about Listening Circles.

Essentially, the goal of Listening 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 good.


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 or 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.


Listening 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, Listening 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 Listening 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.


Every session starts with a meditative exercise to bring our attention back to the present moment. This makes us aware of the sensations in ourselves. After that, we start our session.

There are roughly four acts:

  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 do you agree or disagree?
  • which insights are you taking home?
  • how did you experience the group dynamic?

If there is time and interest, 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?

Listening 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. This can be paradoxical.

We often examine multiple sides of seeming opposites at once, such as independence and interdependence, chaos and order, agreement and disagreement. This might seem confusing at first, but we believe it can reveal the reality of the present moment.


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