Learning how to hold safe, supportive circles for healing is the work of a lifetime. It’s work we can practice in every interaction—with ourselves, close family and friends, colleagues, and strangers. Being present with others, listening with compassion and curiosity, and respecting each other’s path to healing increases the quality of our own lives.
The more we practice, the better we get at hosting circles. We become less nervous and less judgmental of ourselves. We understand that what happens in each circle is both unique and universal. We lean into the grace—or as some would say, the magic—of being in circle.
In the silence before we speak in circle, we give ourselves permission to access and allow any emotion that is present. Circle gives us the strength to feel and explore what we might otherwise have buried. We don’t direct emotion to any other member of the circle but, instead, offer it to the center as fuel for the fire.
Sitting on the rim of the circle as host and guardian, we bear witness. If we have done our work exploring our own emotional interior, we can stay longer with another’s pain and suffering without being triggered ourselves. The ancient Taoists called this “earning your pearl;” it is holding without taking on, or catch and release.
Discovering Self Through the Arts
Frequently in our healing circles and on our retreats, someone tells a story of having been saved by the arts—or a story of yearning to pursue healing through art that is frustrated by the need to do work that does not nourish the soul. Even among those who have never been drawn to arts before, the discovery of the healing power of art can awaken the recognition of a simple truth: art heals.
The central idea of the healing arts is a focus on process rather than product. There’s no need to create a finished product of high aesthetic appeal. Rather, the healing use of the arts focuses on what the creative act evokes in us. We can use healing arts to explore inner states: physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.
Addressing Meaningful Questions
Serious illness, deep grief, dramatic changes in our circumstances at work or in the family often call us to examine the great questions in life, which are present whether we’re consciously aware of them or not:
- Who are we?
- Where do we come from?
- Why are we here?
- Where are we going?
- To whom (or what) are we accountable?
These are questions about the meaning of life. We may answer them from a philosophical or spiritual perspective. We may live our entire lives without facing them. But often, in the face of a difficult illness, loss, or sense of our aging, they have new urgency. It can be comforting to address them together.
Focusing Mind and Body
The journey inward is one of the most rewarding aspects of healing circles. Here, we breathe and come into our present. Here, we listen to our bodies and what they are communicating. Here, we find a path into an inner world of guidance.
All paths to cultivating this inner attention are welcome: silence, meditation, visualization, bodywork, healing touch, Reiki, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and others. Beginning by listening within first keeps our sharing authentic in healing circles. Practicing these different disciplines with others can be a silent healing circle, rich with swirling energies—and love.