Hold your own circle
Want to hold your own women's circle? I've provided some free guidelines and suggestions for you here.
These notes, guidelines and steps are for a general open circle, when anyone is invited. It may differ for a closed circle in which you invite your friends, or you have the same women for several weeks.
You may fill in your own details in the blank spaces.
Take off your shoes and TURN OFF PHONES. Go to toilet first if needed. You may sit in chairs or on cushions, up to you. You may change your mind at any time and move to a chair or cushion.
2. Welcome and short housekeeping
Thank you for coming.
Timing: from ____ to _____ circle, (2-2.5 hours is a good time). Optional tea and socialising afterwards.
Ask everyone to place their personal objects into the circle centre, if you have asked them to bring any. The centre gives us a focus or a focal point. It symbolises our intention, gives us a place to rest our eyes, reminds us we are in a safe space, and reflects our connection and diversity.
3. Open the circle (read a poem, or follow ‘Opening the circle’ at the end of this document)
4. Check in: round of introductions: In circle we use a talking stick/bowl/object (can be anything). Only one woman speaks at a time, holding the stick. Everyone else listens without agenda, instead of waiting to respond or react.
Holding the talking stick, say your name and what brought you here today. (Add an extra suggestion based on theme of circle). Or, honour our ancestors by introducing ourselves as daughter of X and granddaughter of Y and Z, naming the women who came before us in our families. Or we may call in a woman who is or was important in our life; one who you would like to have sitting beside you today in circle.
Include yourself to model the check in process.
5. Movement and recentre - get up and move around, dance or stretch, or yoga, whatever you like to do.
6. What is a women’s circle? (For circles with first-timers)
A women’s circle is purely a beautiful way for women to get together and connect. It involves a circle holder who holds a safe space for that to happen.
Circles are based on a tradition thousands of years old. They are a place where we can retreat and share what is going on for us. Or if we don’t wish to share, it gives us a safe space to simply be held and witnessed and accepted as we are.
In circle you can talk about things that you can’t or don’t necessarily want to share with other friends or family in normal conversation. The circle is deeper and broader than friendship and allows for a deeper connection.
We all have challenges and problems. Sitting in circle allows us to share our problems as well as listen to those of others. We can also celebrate the highs and successes that you are proud of but are not usually comfortable in sharing in case others think you are showing off.
A circle is NOT group therapy or a self-help group; we aren’t here to fix each other, but to listen, and to be seen, heard and accepted in exactly the way that we are and the way we are not. In other words, a circle is just a gathering of women that allows us the space to share our experience and the space to be our true selves.
Coming together in circle promotes growth and development, helps us overcome beliefs that may be holding us back in our lives, release things we no longer need, and start to be happy and comfortable in ourselves.
7. Guidelines of the circle - share and gain agreement. (For circles with first-timers)
A circle follows guidelines to make it a safe space for all and allow us to connect with ourselves and others. The guidelines are a living document and can be changed with the agreement of all present.
The circle is a confidential space. We don’t talk about anything that we hear in the circle outside of this space. A woman may talk about her own experience to others, but not about anyone else’s.
In circle, we hold space for each other. This means we listen to each other with our whole attention; we listen without agenda. Only the woman holding the talking stick speaks - there is no dialogue. We try to be fully aware of what the other woman is saying without thinking ahead to what we want to say ourselves. We don’t interrupt, we don’t judge, we don’t offer advice or sympathy.
It can be difficult for us to sit in silence when we see another woman is upset or angry. We have been taught to jump in and fix other people’s problems or to offer them help and tell them things will be okay and give them a hug - it is a natural instinct. But in circle, we don’t do that. If you notice someone is upset, reactive or emotional, simply be present while seeing them and accepting their emotions, feelings and expression with compassion. Let their tears flow, let their emotions run and dissipate; this is healing in itself and can be very powerful. You may pass a box of tissues, but don’t say anything. Simply breathe deeply, relax, observe your need to ‘rescue’ the other woman and sit with your own discomfort. It is not easy to start with but will start to feel natural after a time.
We don’t need to give advice to others, as everyone already has the answers within them. By being given the space to be, the answer has a chance to come to us. We have more chance of accessing the answer because no one is interrupting and telling us what to do. We have only to trust ourselves to listen to our inner wisdom. You are allowed to ask for advice or for help, and this can happen after the circle is over.
You might also notice a negative reaction or emotion arising within you in response to what someone else says. If this happens, then just be aware of it; be present to how you feel without blaming another. This is a way to take self-responsibility for your own experience. No one else is responsible for your emotions and reactions. If someone has said something that you find upsetting or have strong feelings and values about, when it is your turn to speak, you might like to share how you feel and what’s happening for you.
You don’t have to speak. If the talking stick comes to you and you don’t feel like sharing, that is fine. Just hold it for a few moments, or as long as you wish, and feel that you are safe and supported before passing the talking stick on to the next person. After the talking stick has been around the circle once, those who chose not to speak the first time will be offered another chance to do so.
For circles without first-timers
I ask if you all agree to the guidelines of the circle:
to consider the circle a confidential space
only one person speaks at a time
if you wish to speak, then to speak spontaneously and honestly from the heart
to listen without agenda - without judgement
to sit with our own discomfort if it arises.
We want everyone to be comfortable with the guidelines.
8. Brief history of the women’s circle. (For circles with first-timers)
Women (and men) have sat in circles since the beginning of human history, about 300,000 years ago. Many indigenous groups still do. They gather in circle to share stories, knowledge and experience, hold rituals, and dance, chant or make music.
In a circle, everyone is equal. Knowledge is passed on by sharing, instead of the now common way of forming lines and passively receiving instructions from one person in a leadership position. This type of linear behaviour started around 4000 to 6000 years ago as the ways of our world became male-dominated.
In the 1980s in the west women began once more meeting in circle as a different way of sharing stories and communicating more fairly. The movement has slowly increased since then. Sitting in circle has brought forth an ancient way of connecting into modern times.
9. Introduce theme of circle - reading, poem, activity etc. Completely up to you!
I invite you to spend a few minutes reflecting on the poem/reading/activity and what it means to you or how it makes you feel. You may wish to write in your notebook or just sit and see what comes to you. (Ask if anyone needs paper and pens. Play some music…)
11. Main round of sharing
I’d like to invite you all to take turns to share with the circle, remembering the guidelines: holding the space for others, listening without agenda and speaking from the heart. You might like to comment on what you felt or reflected on when hearing the reading/poem/activity. Did you gain any insight or relate in some way? (If no general theme - share anything you like that is happening in your life - something that is going well for you, or something that is hard at the moment, or both. Try not to pre-plan what you will say; just speak whatever spontaneously arises once you take the talking stick. (Check the time - there are XX women so you may speak for around XX minutes each.)
(Half way through, take some breaths and sighs to relax and centre)
(Thank everyone for sharing at the end and offer a chance to those who didn’t. Wait…..)
12. Get up and move, or do another activity, or do a sound healing or yoga nidra or grounding meditation – see example at end of document – or anything that takes your fancy. Completely optional.
13. Check out
Before we finish I invite you to reflect on the circle we’ve created today. You can briefly share how you are feeling right now, or what you have learned, or anything you’ve heard today that resonated with you. Or perhaps set an intention for something you want to do.
12. Close the circle (follow ‘Closing the circle’ at the end of this document)
Thank you all for coming today. The circle is now closed. Please feel free to stay for a cup of tea. Remember to pick up your objects from the centre.
Circle conscious opening and closing
Opening the circle
Closing down your eyes, take a deep breath in together, in through the nose and out the mouth. The again in through the nose and out through the mouth with a sigh. (3x)
Take a few moments to bring yourself here, using your breath to arrive and centre yourself…
As you breathe in and out, notice how you are feeling in this moment. Allow it to be exactly as it is. You might feel tired, frazzled, anxious, relaxed, happy or sad; you might have aches or pains. Just note and accept it all, just tuning into your body and seeing how it feels…
Trust that there is nowhere else you need to be or nothing else you need to be doing right now.
Then bring the awareness back to the breath. Breathe in now to a count of 4, and out for a count of 6. (3x)
Now let your breathing return to its normal rhythm….
Bring your awareness to the soles of the feet, pushing gently through the soles of your feet, the base of your spine, feeling your deep connection to the earth, feeling yourself held and supported by the earth.
Bring your awareness now to the crown of the head, imagining a ball of light above your head. As you breathe in, the ball opens and light pours down your body. Feel the column of energy pour down into your heart space and then down your spine to the soles of your feet.
The light travels down through your feet into the floor, the ground, the earth beneath, all the way down to the heart of mother Earth. Breathe in the support of the Earth, all the way up into your body. Breathe in love, support and nourishment form the earth up to the crown of your head and let it shower down over your whole body….
Return your awareness to your heart space, just placing the palm of your hand gently there, resting and feeling the energies meeting here, combining with your energy and feeling yourself in the state between Earth and the light above…
Stay for a few moments resting in this space. Don’t resist any thoughts...just notice them and return your awareness to your breath and your heart space each time.
Take this time breathing to be present with yourself, following the breath in and out…
Together, we now set a joint intention to create a safe space between us, trusting that all that is shared will be done so truthfully…openly…and willingly.
We trust that each of us will take responsibility for the energy we bring to the space and practise discernment in the things that we share, only sharing what we feel ready to do so. We trust that we will hold a space for one another that is free of judgement.
We trust that we will hold what is shared in complete confidence.
We welcome diverse points of view and we honour each other’s perspective and experience.
Now taking another deep breath in and letting it out with an audible sigh…and again…then wiggling your toes, fingers and nose, rubbing your hands together and opening your eyes.
Closing the circle
Closing down the eyes again, taking a deep breath in and letting it out with a sigh, then dropping back in to your heart space, placing your hand there, and taking a few breaths in and out through the heart space….
Together we close this space that we have created, and give thanks for the opportunity to come together, to explore and experience.
We honour each other’s perspective without judging it as right or wrong.
We set our intentions as we leave this space for how we will go about the rest of our day and evening.
Take another deep breath in and out, and slowly open the eyes.
I’d like to read a guided meditation to ground ourselves, or connect to the Earth, before we close the circle. First stand up, shake out your body, stretch into the space. Then make yourselves comfortable on the chair or floor with your blanket and pillow.
Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Become aware of your body touching the floor or the chair. Feel the floor or the chair supporting your body.
Concentrate your awareness around your centre of gravity, in the middle of your body.
Visualize a seed there, ready to take root.
Become aware of where your feet or sit-bones are connected to the earth or the chair. Now imagine yourself as the seed, about to germinate and take root through your connection to the earth.
As you breathe in, feel yourself gathering your energy. As you breathe out, let your roots begin to dig through the soil.
Your roots tunnel down and spread out as they grow, digging deeper into the soil.
Feel yourself connecting with the dirt and stones and even the water table, deep below you.
With each out breath, gently push your roots a little bit further. They will naturally find their way around and through any obstacles that present themselves.
As you get down to the bedrock, feel your roots touch the stones. Connect with the veins in the stones themselves, so that your roots go down into the very bones of the earth.
Pause there for a moment and let that connection strengthen.
Feel the stability that your roots give you, so that you are balanced and steady.
On each in breath, draw up from your roots whatever energy and sustenance you need. On each out breath, let whatever is bothering you flow down and out into the earth and be diffused……
Now, when you take a breath in, start to draw that flow up into yourself, into your trunk. As you breathe out, start to put out leaves and branches.
Breathe in, and feel the energy of the earth combine with your own to feed your branches. As you breathe out, feel your branches grow, reaching up through the sky.
Let your branches divide and spread, so that some are thick and strong, and others end in delicate twigs that sway as the wind blows through them.
Feel your leaves seeking out the sun’s energy.
That energy flows into you, and mingles with what’s already there, strengthening your trunk and feeding you all the way down to your roots.
Rest there, letting the energy flow into you and through you, letting it nourish you, heal you, and replenish you.
When you’re ready, gently draw your roots and branches back in by visualizing them shrinking back into you each time you breathe in.
You know they will always be there, and that you can extend them again, and connect with your environment again, at any time.
For now, let them retract into you, so that you gradually become aware of the shape of your own body again.
Feel your body lying on the floor or sitting on the chair. Listen to the sounds you can hear inside the room. Take another deep breath in and let it out slowly.
When you’re ready, open your eyes. If you are lying down, roll over to your right side and sit up slowly.