As mentioned in the previous blog „The World is your Small Group“ several tools for sharing and listening in circle have been taken online. The Council website offers a page where dates for online Council or Circle meetings can be found. The facilitators mentioned in the entries can be contacted for more information.
One of the effects of the present situation is that we realise how interconnected humanity is. Never before have we so obviously been affected worldwide and simultaneously by such an unexpected, global challenge. Never before were such severe measures taken on such a large scale within such short notice.
Not everyone is affected in the same way. As Damian Barr formulated it: „We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar.“ We learn to see that as Humanity we are One. What troubles one human being, does have an effect on others even miles away. What is happening now can be heard as a wake-up call not to return to that which we had come to accept as normal. Change is needed.
There is a lot of potential for transformation in small groups. Although it is not always easy to get along with one another as we are co-creating something new, we can feel encouraged and inspired in our ups and downs by what the anthropologist Margaret Mead pointed out: „Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.“
Since the beginning of time, people have been coming together in circles to share about themselves and their concerns. Over the past decades several self-organizing communities of practice have emerged that are based on the principle of a group of people meeting in circle. The methods being used vary according to the needs and purpose of the meeting. A large tool box for sharing, deep listening, and accessing wisdom is available by now. Just to give you a taste and name a few, I pick some that I have been using in different settings: Circle of Wisdom, Council, Collective Presencing, Open Space, World Café, The Circle Way, Case Clinic, Systemic Constellations, and the Flow Game.
It comes as no surprise that several of these tools have been taken online and allow for all sorts of configurations: local, regional, national, international, global. They enable us to hear and learn from one another’s experiences.
As we are confronted with an existential crisis, there seem to be at least four phases or states that we move through. They are not necessarily linear-consecutive, as they can overlap and repeat themselves.
They might be described as:
1. Accepting what is happening – As we witness how systems, habits and certainties break down or dissolve, we allow ourselves to feel in shock, sense pain or grief, and express what is happening for us.
2. Sense-making – As we experience ambiguity and uncertainty, we try to frame our experiences and give meaning to them.
3. Letting new forms, attitudes, values, etc. emerge – We try to find ways to act in the unknown. As a result of break-down, chaos, pressure, sense-making, visionary power and/or inner alignment new possible ways of being and acting become visible.
4. Giving shape and form to those new ways
A few days into the global lockdown (March 23rd, 2020), Brian Stout published an interesting online article called „Turning toward: connecting under quarantine. On the transformative potential of small groups“. He poignantly concluded his reflections with the following lines: „Let’s reconnect. We can’t do so physically, so we need to find ways to use technology to build trust, deepen relationships, and collaborate together. Of necessity, we’re suddenly liberated from the boundaries of geography: the world is your small group.“
Sense-making and co-creating start by sharing our stories and concerns. A small group that I am part of has been developing a new platform called CoronaCircles. It intends to make it easier to come together online in local and global circles and listen deeply to one another in times of quarantine and social distancing. We hope to launch it sooner than soon. Stay in touch!
Highly recommended!!! A long, very beautiful and inspiring article including an extensive interview with Joanna Macy.
„We need to sit together, grab each other and be together as we even take in what is happening, let alone how we respond. Because alone you get overwhelmed, and it becomes traumatizing. But once people have tasted that they can, with each other, speak about what they see and feel is happening to our world, a number of things happen, in addition to the fact that they fall in love with each other. There is a trust and realization of, „Oh my god, I’m not alone.“ There is a return to your own self-respect. I think self-respect has not been realized as such a source of strength in the individual psyche. I think people would rather see themselves facing an overwhelming foe with conviction of their purpose, than to be comfortable.
So that was the release. And the release would come, and as people began to break through their reluctance to suffer with our world, once they took that on and spoke to it, then they found their unity with our world. Often, not only did a sense of bondedness come, but a lot of hilarity. There is laughter and joking, and a shaking off of a kind of spell or curse. A feeling comes, of, „I can be here.“ And that feels more liberating and true to you and brings you into the moment when you are less dependent on someone giving you a failsafe method to make everything fine, because no one can do that. (…)
What is called of us now, from the planet? What are we being called to do at this time?
To wake up together. That is actually the name of the movement in Sri Lanka that I went over to do field work with. Sarvodaya. Taking the Gandhian term, but using it in a slightly different way, but the same Sanskrit, which is „everybody wakes up together.“
It’s hard to wake up alone now. It’s scary to see even what is going on. But there is almost no limit, I’ve come to believe, to what we can do with the love and support of each other. There is almost no limit to what we can do for the sake of each other. This taps into the Bodhisattva heart. That’s that hero figure of Mahayana Buddhism, „the one with the boundless heart.“ The one who realizes there is no private salvation.
If you are going to wake up, you have to wake up together. Never has that been more true than now, at this stage of late stage corporate capitalism.“
On the website of the CircleWay you find blog posts and resources that might be useful when you need to shift your in-person circles and meetings into the so-called virtual space.