Over the weekend I gathered with 35 others to help support the legacy work of Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea, and others working from a Peer Spirit tradition. We gathered on Whidbey Island at The Marsh House, one of my favorite magical places in the world. Stewarded and tended to by one of my good friends Joy Moulton.
First Fire was the name of the gathering. A passing on of fire, or more accurately, a sharing of fire, for more people to carry the work of The Circle Way in the world. At its core is an intent to help transform the planet and human consciousness by changing (or remembering) the way that we are together. Christina and Ann have been my primary teachers of circle. Beautiful to honor them and this work in this way.
One of the gems for me from this gathering came from a harvest of an open space session called by Lisa Connors and Kristie McLean. Their focus in their group was about using circle internationally. What really sparked for me in their sharing was three core ways in which I find circle transforms an ordinary experience into ritual and what I would call, higher vibration. It gave me ideas. It affirmed some practices too.
To Witness Journey
My friend Steve Ryman is a nomad. He has become one. He worked 35 years within an Oregon public and mental health system. He was part of a peer-based, distributed leadership team. In his last several years, Steve was stirred to move into the next parts of his life. To leave the comfort of his work and friendships. To leave home. To simplify his belongings down to what he could carry in a back pack and leave behind in a small storage location. Steve was stirred to move toward the global community of friends working for social good and justice. To offer himself in service from a different place.
One of Steve’s impulses took him to Zimbabwe to be with the community that is Kufunda Learning Village. Another was to Spain to walk the El Camino Trail. When he returned from each of these trips we were deliberate about setting time to witness and hear of his journey. Not just, “how was your trip” brief summaries. That wouldn’t do here. Rather, deeper witnessing. Deeper listening. For Steve, an opportunity to share from the energy that he had experienced these trips. Touching the vibration if you will. Circle was our way of doing this. Of honoring and witnessing such significant journey.
To Mark Passage
I have a daughter who is soon to graduate from high school. She will start attending college shortly after that. It is a time of passage. Another one. From one significant stage of life to another. Of maturing. It could be simply passed in time. An unmarked falling into the next place of life. That somehow seems disappointing. My friend Roq Gareau reminds me that we have lost many of our rituals and initiations in contemporary life that often were used to mark passages. I notice that I’m searching for some ways to mark this passage with my daughter. I tell myself that it must be quite simple. Lisa and Kristie reminded me that a circle could do this. Perhaps a modified version of the Quaker Clearance Committee format in which a small group of us only ask questions and share an affirmation of seeing. Deliberateness to mark this part of the transition that is young adult to adult.
To Entrain to Memory
In early 2000 I took a trip to Zimbabwe and South Africa. It was the beginning of work for a global leadership initiative, From the Four Directions, through a partnership of The Berkana Institute and Peer Spirit. It was the first time I’d been to Africa. We spent a week, a group of 30 of us, celebrating our friend Marianne Knuth’s 30th birthday. Time near Harare. Time near Marianne’s Grandmother’s village. Time near Victoria Falls. This was a trip on which many important things happened. It may sound funny, but one that I remember most was the first circle we had together. I remember circling outside in the autumn sun near Harare. I remember the comfort I felt to feel the form of circle as part of our being together. I remember where people sat in the circle. It is as if the form of circle, and what was shared, amplified the part of me that remembers long term by feeling and energy, well beyond words. It is memory that still sits in me. That I appreciate. Seemingly insignificant, yet deeply entrained to memory.
Thanks to Lisa and Kristie and the activated spirit of this First Fire group for these bits of clarity on some key uses of circle.