We become ourselves in each other’s presence.
I’m going to say that again and I invite you to
really slow down and let this sink in…
We become ourselves
in each other's presence.
What happens then in a world such as ours when we are so sped up that we are not slowing down to be present to each other?
I dare say - we do not fully become ourselves.
Earlier this summer I attended the Global Forum on Transforming Self and Society - sponsored by the Presencing Institute (founded in 2006 by Otto Scharmer and colleagues at MIT).
One of the breakout sessions was called a Compassion Circle. After reading the description I felt drawn to attend. I had such a powerful experience that first time, that I have attended the monthly gathering twice since then.
Founded by Sergio Michel (from Mexico) and hosted by Bianca Briciu (from Ottawa, Canada) the compassion circle offers participants a space to experience a different way of being for 90 minutes; a different way of being from our often over-analytical, sped-up, not-present-to-each-other mode. (Note - What a gift our analytical minds are, and even our ability to speed up. The problem is when this mode dominates so much of the time. What are we missing out on? (And let’s be honest we are always missing out. COMO = Certainty of Missing Out))
The group starts with Bianca warmly welcoming everyone - and any new people - to this time and explaining what to expect in our time together. And then she hands it over to someone (this morning it was Alisa from Germany) who leads us in a centering practice, basically helping us to slow down and be present to our breath and body, which then in turn allows us at a much deeper level to be present to each other.
And then the heart of the compassion circle involves someone sharing a story of something that happened to them that has some emotional salience. This could be sadness, anxiety, or also joy, or ecstasy. As Sergio says, “Paint us a picture of the scene.’’ And we all listen attentively.
(If you’d like, dear reader, bring to mind what you might share if you were in this circle with us right now.)
Then the person who just shared their story will ask someone to “offer them a gift of listening.” Let's say you just shared and then asked me to offer you this gift of listening. I would then simply repeat back to you what I heard from you as I listened with compassion. And then others can offer other things that they noticed, heard, witnessed. It’s that simple. And yet quite powerful. (And just like explaining a dance, this explanation doesn’t do it justice, as much as experiencing it firsthand.)
How often do we have a space where we can be heard and witnessed without being judged, fixed? How often are you given ample spaciousness to be honest with yourself and your experience, and experience being witnessed? And how often do you get to witness this happen with others? My guess is that for most people it’s all too rare.
I’m amazed by a couple things. First, how powerful this simple exercise is. This reminds me of a favorite quote of mine from Dr. Gabor Mate. “Safety is not just the absence of a threat, but also the presence of connection.” What we are creating in our circle is a deep visceral sense of safety. And I don’t know about you, but we are living in times where conscious or nonconscious I would easily argue that our sense of safety has been lessened as so many major institutions and our planet are falling apart. So to feel the presence of deep connection is so important. Because when we experience a holistic sense of safety, we are more free to live, grow, dream, imagine, collaborate.
And secondly, I’m amazed by how time seems to slow down when we get real with each other and are witnessed. This reminds me of a quote I heard from my friend/colleague Bridget Mullins, “There is always time for the conversation we need to have.’’ I have found that when I am NOT doing what is a priority task for me, my body knows it and there is low level stress. When have focused my time and energy to be present to what is truly important to me, I have a sense of spaciousness in time.
So Why are Compassion Circles important? You may be saying that’s great for you David that you are feeling all these warm fuzzies. But c’mon let’s get practical! We’ve got so many complex issues before us in our world.
I would argue that this practice - and those similar - are foundational to the work we have before us as we face the crises of our time.
At least three key things are occurring.
First, we get connected with ourselves in a fuller way - not just living in our analytical minds, but also bringing our emotional body back online. We are bringing more of our wisdom into the room. Integrating what has likely been fragmented and cut off.
Secondly, because we are connecting with our fuller, deeper selves and have a safe space for dialogue (and being seen and heard and supported), this enables us to have a much richer fuller connection with each other. We are truly connecting with each other’s humanity.
And both of these things lay the foundation for any kind of collaboration that is so essential in our times. Gone are the days when we think a lone ranger genius will solve our ills. We need each other; we need collaboration.
What is made possible when we connect more deeply with ourselves and each other - from places of the heart and mind?
And how might you offer someone the gift of listening today?
Furthermore, how might you make a regular practice of offering the gift of listening?
And finally, how might you create a container of safety where people can regularly open up and be seen and heard? What connectedness might result? And what collaboration might be possible when we are more fully connected?
Let’s find out.
Three meaningful learning/development opportunities I'm happy to invite you into
1 - FREE Workshop - Sept 23 - entitled Let's Face it Together - designed and facilitated by Bridget Mullins and myself. Register for this Free Workshop HERE
2 - My Unlocking Your Potential: Immunity to Change™ course is back this October! Super Early Bird ends tomorrow - Friday Sept 9! Find out more and Register HERE.
3 - If you happen to be local in Bellingham, and are interested in talking about a local compassion circle(s), please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org