It was the 13th century Persian poet, Jellaludin Rumi, that wrote so beautifully of fields. Of expanded minds. Of oneness. Of the less visible that is “field” that is often beyond words.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”
Yesterday I returned from the field above, at the Aldermarsh Retreat Center. Out beyond Maxwelton Road in the Maxwelton Valley, in traditional lands of the Snohomish, Suquamish, Swinomish, and the Lower Skagit, over the wood-chip paths, through the marsh of Alder, there is a field, in which Marsh House exists. I love this little gathering spot. Bunnies hop out there. Coyotes howl at night. There is room to amble. There is space to be held. And this little building holds us in circles. On chairs. On cushions. On back-jacks. With a candle in the middle and some questions to guide us.
It’s been 20 years now that I’ve been going to Aldermarsh both to convene groups and participate. It’s the retreat center in which, looking back, I’ve done so much of my life learning from my mid 30s to mid 50s. And that learning was refreshed a bunch this last week for The Circle Way Practicum.
There is a point at which we are no longer circling, we are no longer doing the circling. But rather, we are being circled, we are participating in something much larger and energized by a deliberate and sustained encounter with one another. It does feel like the space beyond right-doing and wrong-doing.
Wow! The last two weeks have breezed by. Helping my spouse pack up more of her parent’s home. Squishing in a full car and trunk load to take from eastern Washington to Seattle. Back to back meetings that get a bit bunched before and after events during which I know I won’t be available. Preparing for and hosting The Circle Way Practicum on Whidbey Island, Washington. Seeing my 19 year-old son at the airport, the first I’ve been with him face to face in nearly a year. It was tear-welling and good for the soul. Now arriving to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania to work with a School of Education planning its coming year.
Early mornings. Full days. Late nights. I’m grateful that most of it has been good or great.
I’m utterly moved by seeing my son. Deeply. I’m so looking forward to witnessing what he has evolved to in these 10 months away. Some listening over dinner. Some play. Some soft voices to share what has happened and tell truths together.
I’m also utterly moved by my experience at The Circle Way Practicum that I co-taught with Amanda Fenton, and fully enjoyed with our other 20 participants. In searching for words to share, the short description that is honest and from the gut, I’ve been saying, “It was like coming home for me. The depth. The connection. The practicality.”
The Circle Way has a pace to it. It’s not a speed date, thought it can be invoked even in that. It’s not a smushed 15 minute small group, though it can be invoked there too. It’s not all serious, ahem, though it is really the best root form I know to enable us to be serious. The Circle Way has a welcoming-in it that brings depth and discovery. The components, I continue to learn, really strengthen the experience. A center. A rim. Agreements. Practices. Depth of a question. A start point. A guardian. They help us remember who we are and who we might want to be together.
I loved the spaciousness of the practicum (though it was not always that way for Amanda and I in our planning and adapting design). But it was spacious in the process. There was room to be heard, that granted, will not happen every day. But the simple reminder, deeply embodied, of this deep presencing and listening together — that changes lives. It did. All of us.
Like coming home.