One thing that I’ve found useful for healing is the Circle process. The Circle process is about a lot of things. One of those things is truth. It is about speaking your own truth, and listening to every other person in the circle speak their truth. It is about knowing your truth. It is about being OK with the idea that your truth may change. It is about being OK with the idea that somebody else’s truth may be radically different from yours. It is about listening to yourself and to others. It is about sitting in that space, in that circle, and really being open to what is happening. It is about understanding that we all want to be heard and seen.
The Circle process teaches that what you see and what I see are different sides of the same thing. Just like in the story of the five blind men and the elephant, we all are groping towards an understanding of “what is”. When we share our viewpoints and our understandings in Circle, we are opening ourselves up to a bigger understanding. We are essentially creating new eyes for ourselves. But in order to have new eyes, we have to have new ears. We have to listen, really listen, deeply. And we have to know our own truths in order to share them. And those are both really hard.
We come from a culture that teaches debate, not dialogue. We come from a culture that teaches us to sit down and shut up. We come from a culture that says you have to give up your own ideas in order to get along with others. It says that the group is more important than the individual.
Consensus sometimes means that one person yells the loudest and everybody else goes quiet. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, after all. If you stick your neck out, it might get chopped off. In Circle, we are taught that if we are all leaders, then we are going to go nowhere.
Circle isn’t about anybody being the leader or anybody being a follower. We all contribute. We all share. We all listen, and we all talk. But we do it one at a time. Everyone else stays silent and listens while each person takes a turn to speak.
And that is hard, the speaking and the listening like this. It is hard because we aren’t taught this. It is hard because we are taught to just go along with the flow. It is hard because we aren’t usually allowed to have our own voice in our culture. It is uncomfortable and unusual to be in a space where people listen to us for minutes at a time.
Half the time we don’t even know what our own truth is. Sometimes our truth changes from moment to moment, with every new voice that is added. Sometimes the hardest thing is being able to say that something is black when everybody else sees it as white.
Circle is about staying in that process, even in the awkward bits, when you feel that nobody is listening to you and nobody understands you. Circle is about staying, even when you feel like you aren’t listening to everybody else. Circle is about staying in that process even when you think that everybody else is wrong, or crazy, or just plain blind. Circle is about staying even when you want to run away, even if it is only in your mind. It is about coming back, and staying, moment by moment.
It is really hard. It is really beautiful. It is a whole different way of thinking and being. And it could save the world.