Circles and spirals are everywhere, in the ground we walk, the air we breathe, in the ice crystals of every glacier, in the river eddies and the ocean waves, in the waters inside and out of our very own bodies, our blood, and in the fire that burns slowly into the embers of a day or is caught by the storm wind destroying and at the same time, making room for new life. We were each born into the circle of life and we have the opportunity every day to think and live like a circle. As nature is our mirror, we find the stars reflecting the patterns of our being, birds calling us into flocks, the mullet circling in such a way that the dolphins can feast. Rocks appear at times in relation to each other almost as if they had been placed in circles throughout untouched undisturbed lands. A naturally appearing compass of communion. Plants again, not unlike us, form in circular shapes: the earliest of mushrooms bursting forth in a collective above ground, root systems beneath everything reflecting yet again this web of life longing to continue. Plants that have been with us for millennia are influencing our future far more then any human design or creation. Living in cycles, they show up in circles and spirals throughout rainforest or grass land. The winds spiral through the desert leaving their trace in sandy circle paintings made by the stem of a mesquite, and cacti insist on opening to the sun the perfect geometric forms at their core, circle upon circle upon circle. Like a tornado moving across the land, or a hurricane gathering its strength over water, swirling motions have informed our energetic life since the beginning of time.
Council is found in nature everywhere and nature is a council of all beings. We are part of nature and have a place in this swirling universe of shapes and form. We understand this by simple observation or scientific inquiry, or best of all, we feel it in our bones.
Our call to sit with others in a circle, the call to form communities and processes of discovery in circle practices is simply natural. And yet somehow many of us lost our way, as linear thinking and ideas of progress moved us too often in but one direction – forward – into unlimited growth. As indigenous cultures were colonized, and genocide for many followed, modern cities replaced villages and our most direct experience of life as a circle began to disappear. It was not all that long ago that ancient rituals, and even sitting in a circle in a US classroom, were against the law. (But that is a longer story, beyond our capacity to witness here.)
The point is, peoples and the land itself have carried on, in circles, in families, in communities, in nature, and despite the destruction of much of our earth so evident today, a renewed call for ways of circle are returning, growing and deepening. Beyond the headlines and the six o’clock news, we want to bear witness to what we know to be true, and what we feel blessed now, with your help, to be remembering and renewing. This increasing longing to gather again around a fire, to tell and listen to our stories, to learn from and with our ancestors, to build real communities in all their varied shapes and sizes, all this is happening today, in the eco-villages in Africa, the inner cities of Los Angeles and Detroit, the prisons and places of crisis all across our lands, and in our hearts, minds and bodies, from Rwanda to Standing Rock, on every continent and in over 75 countries where we have collectively traveled these last few years. Whether in the circle teachings of First Nation peoples, in the Western education of spiral dynamics and deep ecology, or in the burgeoning of holistic communities around the world, ways of circle are being remembered, honored and invoked. Learning, healing, visioning, is taking place in circles, from gentle birthing to dying with dignity. The circle, and from there the spiral, is the essence of regeneration. This circular momentum is taking us farther into our dream of a compelling future, beyond the catch-word of the day, mere “sustainability.”
We carriers of circle ways find these practices to be our teachers. Such ways not only inform us, they resource us. Whether they’re called “talking circles,” as in the oldest of tribes, or now reappearing as roundtables in modern organizations; whether they’re named “listening circles” in colleges and town meetings; “councils” in communities and governments, we know their gifts, the gift of respect for everyone’s experience and voice, the gift of feeling one with the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Feeling at home in a circle. Finding wisdom, or a decision, in a spiral of voices. Being deeply seen and heard. Recognized. Feeling included, connected again to the circle of life.
The Call to Circle has never disappeared. It is where and how we all began. And returning to that source brings with it a sense of belonging and a clue as to how our spirit will continue.