Guidelines for a harmonious functioning
of Circles of Compassion
(Adapted from the Millionth Circle and other
The following guidelines constitute the woof so to speak on which we weave
our sharing. Until you have interiorised them, it is suggested that you
reread them before each circle meeting.
1. We create our circle as a sacred space
and with a sacred centre – this word is used here in the sense of
set apart for an elevated purpose, worthy of the highest reverence and
respect, which has authentic spiritual substance. We undertake to preserve
the quality of that space. A small table is placed in the center with
a candle, a gong, etc. – each circle creates its one space and “ritual”.
2. The time for starting and ending the circle
is defined in advance, and mentioned at the beginning of each meeting.
3. We start with a moment of silent reflection.
This enables each person to centre down. During this moment, we learn
to listen to the silence, from which is born every sound, word, note of
music, and to which all returns.
4. Each session starts with a check-in, during
which each participant shares what is important for him/her at the moment,
be it a challenge or a joy.
5. The leadership of the circle is shared by
rotation, so that each person who wishes to assume the function of facilitator
can do so.
6. Absolute equality reigns in the circle.
Each person is equal to all others; there are neither stars nor gurus.
Your simple presence constitutes a gift to the whole group because your
life experience is absolutely unique, as is your way of viewing things.
This is true for every participant, which makes the circle something of
7. The circle facilitator makes sure that each
circle member follows the ground rules. She or he intervenes in a spirit
of observation, never of correction or “setting things right.”
(E.g. “I notice that you made a judgement about what Jane just said.
Could you reformulate your comment in another manner?”).
8. One person at a time uses the talking stick
(or whatever other symbolical object the circle uses to fill this function).
This ancient American Indian custom enables each one to say what they
have to say without being interrupted, get to the bottom of their own
thought at their own rhythm, and enables a deep and empathetic listening
from the others.
9. Each participant speaks from his/her own
experience, speaks from the heart, and sticks to the theme of the discussion.
In circles of compassion, we give up any desire to be “right”,
to convince others or to ensure the triumph of a given point of view.
We open up to the infinite wealth of our individual experiences, doors
open within, and the magic of the circle gives birth to possibilities
way beyond our fondest dreams.
10. We listen above all with deep compassion.
This means learning to silence our endless inner monologues, to still
the mind or intellect, which is constantly running attempting to fill
every nook and cranny with its wearisome rattling and opinions. We learn
to be completely present, to offer each and everyone the treasured gift
of total listening, one of the rarest and most precious experiences of
our contemporary noise cultures. In the words of Eckhart Tolle: “To
meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise
is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe. I call it stillness,
but it is a jewel with many facets: that stillness is also joy, and
it is love.”
11. We listen as an ally, trusting in the innate
wisdom of the person who is speaking, and occasionally inviting moments
of silence, which we welcome with respect and gratitude. Silence enables
participants to be aware of the spiritual presence in the circle (which
each one defines in his/her own way). It enables us to be attuned to the
mystery we have placed in the centre of the circle. It is this presence
that insures that the circle is much more than the addition of its individual
12. Each one assumes the complete responsibility
of their experience and their impact on the circle.
13. In as far as possible, all decisions are
reached by consensus. A consensus is created when a group wants to or
needs to assume the collective responsibility of its actions. Once the
consensus has been reached, the circle can speak as a “we”.
14.The circle encourages and welcomes different
viewpoints. These constitute enrichment: I am enriched, not menaced, by
the differences in you.
15. . If there is a moment of tension, rather
than rushing in with band aids, we simply “hold” the tension,
we observe it, we just let it be, without attempting to judge or label
16. The circle constitutes a space of complete
security for each member. This necessarily implies respect of the total
confidentiality of everything that is shared in the circle. This is one
of the most fundamental and sacred rules of circles of compassion. At
the first meeting, it is also important for each one to share what is
essential for them to feel totally secure. It could mean speaking loudly
enough, being certain that no telephone will start ringing, that the meeting
closes exactly on time, etc.
17. Participating in a circle of compassion
means making a firm commitment to come regularly to meetings unless something
very serious or completely unexpected makes attending impossible. This
is an expression of respect for others – and us. A person who constantly
misses meetings conveys a message of lack of respect and consideration
towards other members.
18. Circle participants are united by a shared
intention, which can be a written Declaration of Intent. A deep and unconditional
respect for each other constitutes the privileged relational basis of
19. The circle can keep a diary, and in this
case will designate someone to keep it up to date.
20. The circle designates a guardian of the
group’s energy. It is important that this person be very sensitive
to energies. He/she can centre the discussion with a small bell when discussion
gets off track, or the energy of the group starts wandering in different
21. At the end of the meeting, the circle makes
plans for the next meeting and designates the next facilitator. Each participant
expresses briefly how he or she feels which constitutes the 'check-out'
or closing of the circle meeting. Gratitude is expressed, as the energy
of gratitude is one of the most powerful energies on the planet.
For how many months or years a circle meets
depends on many factors, like the quality of energy in the circle, its
objectives, number and stability of participants, etc. Some circles have
been known to last well beyond 10 or 15 years. Each circle manages itself
autonomously. It is natural for members to start supporting each other
in everyday life and as the circle matures, various service activities
in the community and/or around the world are introduced. The United Nations
Millennium Development Goals are a set of objectives; humanity has pledged
to be met by 2015.
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WWSF Women’s World Summit Foundation offers
regular training workshops on
how to create Circles of compassion and
help implement the United Nations Development Goals.
WWSF P.O.Box 143, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland
firstname.lastname@example.org - www.woman.ch
The World Day for Circles of Compassion – 2 November
- serves as an annual rallying call to unleash compassion and for the
creation of community circles around the world. Poster and documents are
available on Internet www.woman.ch