What is Circling?
Circling is a Meditation practice that is done in a group of 3 to 7 people. It is most similar to mindfulness meditation, or vipassana meditation. Basically any meditation that involves naming, labeling, noticing, or noting your experience as it arises. My teacher has referred to Circling as “Relational Vipassana”.
How Should I Participate in a Circle?
There are 3 basic ways to contribute to the group conversation in a circle as a participant or the person facilitating (we’ll get more into what to do if you are being circled later):
1. Ask for more detail about the Circlee’s experience – “Do you feel that somewhere?” “What is it like to experience that?” “Do you like feeling that?” Are all questions that ask for more detail about the Circlee’s experience.
2. Notice how the Circlee is being, how they seem, and see if it has anything to do with what they are experiencing – i.e. “When you said that you were sad, you seemed kind of hesitant, is that right?”
3. Share what it feels like to be with the Circlee and see if it has anything to do with what they are experiencing – I’ve often found that I’m feeling sad in a circle where the circlee is sad. Or I feel protective when they are feeling tender or scared. We can use our experience being with others to invite the Circlee to notice their experience.
Circling is a Practice of Creating Intimacy – Not Advice Giving
When we Circle, we avoid many of the habitual ways of interacting that prevent the moment to moment visceral experience of connection from happening. We avoid things like giving advice, explanations, analysis, opinions, etc…
Lets say someone says: “I’m just scared that you won’t like me”
Here are some habitual responses that take away from intimacy, that would not be circling:
Giving advice – “When I’m scared of people, I just go ahead and push through that feeling, and it gets better”
Telling someone how they should feel – “Relax, just calm down, we’re not going to bite”
Telling someone how things are – “Well you know, not everyone is going to like you, everyone’s different”
Coaching or some other kind of intervention – “What would it be like if you weren’t scared? What would it take for you to not be scared? Can you do that?” “When’s the first time you felt that feeling, does it have something to do with your parents?”
Over my years of circling I have seen many different ways in which people go into a habitual response (myself included of course) that distracts from the visceral experience of connection. Part of learning Circling is unlearning these habitual ways of interacting so that we can have more choice about how we want to interact with others.