When I decided to facilitate groups for boomer women to talk about the gifts and challenges of growing older, it was not an accident that the format for creating this sacred space would be the circle. There is just no other configuration than the circle that allows for equanimity, where everyone is equal around the sacred center. There is no hierarchal order in a circle. Everyone sees everyone else and is visible to others. There is no beginning nor end…….Perfect for my groups and perhaps a lesson to society as a whole.
While the circle has roots in ancestral times, I believe its’ usefulness, purpose and gifts are as relevant today as ever. Imagine a corporate, staff, school board, City Council or even a family, faculty or PTA meeting where participants sit in a circle in the same style and type of chair. No more big, soft plush leather chairs for the “leaders”, while the “plain folk” squeeze their butts into chairs designed for people half their size. No more raised platforms where the “leaders” sit elevated above us pontificating from their higher ground. With no contrived hierarchy nor physical separation to create an “us vs them” scenario, and with all members on equal footing, while visible to all, maybe, just maybe we could listen a little better and hear others points of views…….
The circle is a powerful archetype representing unity and wholeness. It is a protected space. From our earliest villages came round hearths, round houses, and round fences. Circles flourished as the primary social structure in our earliest communities, often with the warmth of the fire providing heat, light and the ability to cook. Today some indigenous people still follow this tradition to sit in circle for spirituality practices or matters of the community,
The circle is an archetypal construct that manifests in our cultural heritage and our collective unconscious. It is also deeply part of our natural order. I believe that for us to bridge the idea of the circle to our everyday lives, we should look to the significance of the circle in the natural world. No one makes this more clear and relevant than Black Elk in this quote from “Black Elk Speaks” by John G Neihart.
“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it… Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The Sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The Moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”
What better model could we have for creating a better world than to look to the natural world through the eyes of those that see the power of circle? What better model for women to come together than the circle…..the sacred circle…….
By Roberta Teller