Slow Down.

How many things are going on for you right now as you read this? How many things are you wanting to do next? How many things are tugging at your awareness? Is it possible to do one thing in this moment? To do nothing other than read the next word of this text. What. would. that. be. like.

I had to ask myself the same question as I wrote this and then I put my devices into “do not disturb”; I brought my full attention to writing this. I invite you to bring your full attention to reading this. More importantly, I invite you to bring your full attention to this moment as you read this. I invite you to experience yourself in this moment as you read these words. I invite you to slow down. I invite you to feel the space between the words you’re reading. To feel the space between the thoughts. I invite you to set aside thoughts of the future, memories of the past… feel here with me as we close gap in time from when I write these words to when you read them. Feel your breath and take a pause.

Take as long as you like.

“I’ve got to get busy… busy, busy, busy!” said professor Hinkle in Frosty The Snowman. This just came back to me in this moment as an archetype of our modern day life. Regardless of how much we’re doing in our lives, I’m most interested in how all this plays out in how we do each of those things on the small scale of living. Just like in how you read this article and how I write it. I want to engage in these tasks with full attention and a slowness that fully appreciates the richness here now. I also don’t want to miss important details. In every conversation I want to be fully present; I want to slow that conversation down so that I capture the essence of the other person; and I want to enjoy and savor that experience with them. I want to do the same with my food, with my guitar playing, with my dancing, with walking my dog, with reading my books, even with playing my video games (yes, I do that, too).

I don’t want to miss important details. In fact, sometimes everything I need to know is in the details I’m missing when I’m going too fast. Take video games, for instance. If I’m zipping through a game and not taking the time to really enjoy it, I may in fact be truly not enjoying it. I may be straining my eyes and making myself sick to my stomach by overstimulated myself and focusing on the computer. When I slow down, I notice these sensations that were beneath my awareness. Once I notice them there is a natural desire to stop playing the game. The game is no longer enjoyable. I’ve had the same experience with sweets.

In conversations, a different importance comes from the details. I’ve often heard a subtle cry for help or attention from a friend or lover. When I’m zipping through the conversation this cry can easily go unnoticed. I once had a friend ask to meet me for coffee in the middle of the day – something we never did – and during that conversation she shared about something she was struggling with in her family. I listened and I thought that was what she needed, but I also felt a bit distracted and not fully present. During that conversation she said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Something about the way she said that stood out to me, but I dismissed it because I didn’t want to take the time to dive in deeper. Months later she did something to harm herself. I realized that I was the only person she felt comfortable reaching out to, but she didn’t feel comfortable stating so clearly that she needed help. The best she could do was say, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” This experience solidified my commitment to slowing down and paying attention during conversations.

I believe in the power of slowing down for bringing positive change and catching potential problems. However, there’s also the simple and pure joy of connection that can be missed. There’s a sort of numbing that can happen where we miss out on the greater joy and richness to be had. I feel the joy of my friends more when I stick with their joy and celebrate with them in their latest success instead of moving on to the next topic of conversation. I feel the peace and serenity more when I sit with my friend in silence watching the sunset for an extra minute. My next dance move is more creative when I wait in stillness with my dance partner for the move to arise rather than move out of some self imposed expectation to move before I’m ready.

Sometimes these moments of slowing down can feel awkward and uncomfortable. I now know this awkwardness as an edge to lean into for growth towards connectedness.

I wonder… just as an experiment… what will happen if we bring any of this kind of slowness into some part of our day today… what will we discover!?

Five Secrets to Unlock Your Circling Potential

I hope to surprise you with these 5 secrets, that’s why I used the word “secrets”. I also do not generally like suggesting a specific finite collection of instructions will have any specific result for everyone (or anyone for that matter), but I do believe these five things will improve your circling. I believe they will work for newbies to circling, participants, self learners, facilitators, and even the grand masters of circling. Though the last category probably already practices these five secrets; and that’s probably part of why they are grand masters of circling.

Generally speaking, I doubt many (if any) circling training programs teach these five secrets. That would be why they are secrets. However, I have not taken nor have knowledge of all the circling training programs out there. I am aware that Integral Theory talks about different lines and levels, and my very basic understanding of this tells me they encourage developing practices among a range of areas of life. The five secrets below probably fall into different lines, at least some of them. One of the major schools of circling is closely related to Integral Theory, and for years was based out of the Integral Center. Some call the style of circling based at the Integral Center “integral circling”.

I’ll follow the typical style of listing the lowest secret on the list first. Increasing in importance and impact as we move up the list to #1. Also, I suggest practicing them in order. Be sure you have #1 under control before moving on to #2, although they all kind of interdepend on each other so don’t exclusively focus on any one without balancing focus on the others.

Be gentle with yourself, this isn’t a thing to force on yourself. Try out the practices, if one day you think “I don’t feel like doing X”, then don’t. Or maybe sit with that feeling for while and see if it fades before deciding not to do X. Bring some awareness to how you feel about doing the practice, where the resistance is, and where the enthusiasm is. But don’t force.

#5 Meditate

I imagine this is the least surprising of the five secrets. Circling is sometimes called “intersubjective meditation”. Well, if you’re going to meditate, perhaps a simpler form of meditation will help the more complex form with the word “intersubjective” before it.

I believe almost any style of meditation will help a circling practitioner, but I do recommend two basic forms of meditation for those new to the practice.

Take a conscious breath any time you think of it.

With this style, you don’t have to sit down and formally practice meditation for any amount of time. You can practice this any time you think of it! While waiting in line at the DMV, take one conscious breath. Maybe take a second if the line is its usual exceptionally long length. Take as many as you want, but one will do.

Practice this, really, anytime you think of it. Not for one week. Not for one month. Not for the day of or the day before circling. Practice it anytime… all the time. If you want to see the results and want a set time to try it out then I suggest a year. I got this practice from Eckhart Tolle and he recommended it to a participant at a conference with many workshops designed to help spiritual growth. Eckhart offered this as an alternative to all the workshops saying it would probably provide more benefit than any of them.

Doing this practice takes you out of your mind, your thoughts, and your stories. It brings you into the present moment briefly. By repeating it, you are exercising the muscle to separate from your thoughts and be present. Part of the practice of circling is to be out of our stories and into the present moment.

Sit for 20 minutes a day and pay attention to your breath.

Honestly, I think this is a really hard practice! I’ve struggled with it many times and still do sometimes. Where the previous style of meditation works the muscle of presence, this practice is a marathon of presence! Yes, a marathon. I suggest you work yourself up to 20 minutes. Perhaps start with two. You are welcome to meditate for 30, 45, 60, or longer if you want, but I have discovered for myself that something happens after about 20 minutes. More on that later.

Find a comfortable place and posture to sit. Any will do, but here are some criteria:

  1. sit in a place where you will not be disturbed by sounds, people, or anything that you find disturbing,
  2. sit in a posture that is physically comfortable to you,
  3. sit in a posture that will not likely lead to sleeping for you (though if you cannot help but sleep… then perhaps you need to sleep more and then meditate), and
  4. use cushions, chairs, couches, or whatever helps you be physically comfortable.

Set a timer so that you do not have to think about time. The timer is not supposed to be a goal to mediate for the whole time, so don’t pressure yourself to meditate for the whole time. The timer is a way to give yourself permission to forget about what you have to do for the next 20 minutes and focus on this moment. The timer will go off to remind you to go to work, eat breakfast, finish your laundry, or whatever. You absolutely do not need to meditate the whole 20 minutes.

Now, here’s the meat. Bring your awareness to your breath. Notice how it feels for the air to enter your nostrils and fill your lungs. Notice how it feels for the air to leave your lungs out through your nostrils. Just keep noticing. Do not control your breath. Let it flow naturally.

During this time you’ll most certainly start day dreaming or feel strong desires to stop meditation and “do” something. This is normal. Make an effort to bring your awareness forgivingly and gently back to the breath. If you find the resistance in you or your desire to “do” is unbearably strong, then take a break and come back another time or day and try again. Maybe make the time shorter or maybe just recognize that this particular moment was harder than usual.

I find for myself that the desire in me to “do” is quite strong. When I take a moment to see that I gave myself permission not to “do” for 20 minutes yet my mind still wants to “do”, I often laugh. I find it funny how strong the impulse is and how the mind really tries to convince me to “do” something. Freeing yourself from this impulse takes time, but it is invaluable while circling.

In circling we don’t want to “do” anything. We want to “be” with each other. We do have a goal of knowing and understanding each other, but it’s hard to call this an action of “doing” something. The doing often comes in the form of trying to fix, resolve, help, reassure, or some other way of not being with what is. Meditation helps us to be with what is, since meditation is fundamentally about being.

Final thoughts on meditation

Having a good meditation practice may be the closest of these secrets to actual circling, but it really rests on the other 4 secrets. If you don’t have the remaining four secrets in good practice then meditation will be even harder and less fruitful.

Oh yeah, about the 20 minute duration, what does happen after 20 minutes? For me, it takes about 20 minutes for the urge to “do” to subside. It’s at about 20 minutes that I feel free to just sit and be. The exact time may be different for you. See if you can notice when or if the urge to do subsides. If you find it takes a specific amount of time for you, then perhaps that’s the amount of time you should meditate.

#4 Exercise

I can sum up this section with: we are in bodies evolved to run while sitting on the couch all day – often in front of some sort of screen (oops, did I just say that, well I did run for 30 minutes this morning; phew safe). What possible benefit could a body evolved to run receive by sitting on a couch, or a chair, or in a car, or in a park… all day.


There are different levels of exercise and they are all beneficial. I suggest a goal of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily alternating between at least two forms of exercise each day. For me, I run for 30 minutes with my heart rate 80% of max one day then a Nike high intensity workout for 20 minutes the next day. I’d like to bring that high intensity work out up to 30 minutes, but it only takes me 20 minutes to complete and I want to be gentle with myself. Now that I outed myself, I’m going to go look and see if there is a longer version of this workout.

I got the 30 minutes at 80% of maximum heart rate from a health article somewhere. You can google this information to verify or revise what I’m suggesting. Be careful not to raise your heart rate too high. One hundred percent of the maximum heart rate is where heart attacks can happen and other life threatening biological events. Thirty minutes is long enough to burn up the sugar in the blood stream and therefore lower the blood sugar level as well as release endorphins in the brain. You’ll have to check my facts on this. I’m reporting from memory and I cannot be sure I got all the information right. What I know for sure is that I read something and created this program for myself because 30 minutes at 80% max hr daily had the results I desired.

You can start smaller and I recommend it if you don’t already exercise regularly. At the most basic and foundational level, stand up. Stand up every hour for a few minutes. Maybe even take a short walk, real short. My FitBit recommends 250 steps. That’s about 4 minutes of walking or about a quarter mile or about a third of a kilometer. You could also do some stretches, as long as you’re standing. Standing requires the heart to work harder and increases blood circulation. However, standing for a full hour is just as bad for your health as sitting for a full hour. Switching between standing and sitting helps promote health. In general, move. Do not stand still or sit still. Which brings me to the next recommendation.

I bet you’ve already heard the importance of brisk walking. The general rule is 30 minutes a day. Regular brisk walks increase the health of the body more than standing up a few minutes an hour, though standing up a few minutes an hour adds to the benefits. This alone will have numerous health benefits and reduce the changes of a slew of diseases and health problems. Brisk walking is a great step towards a better exercise routine.

I still recommend a goal of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise. Exercise promotes relaxation in the body, a sense of peace, focus, and concentration. All of these will help with meditation and circling. If you’re going to sit for 60 minutes in a circle and focus on getting one person’s world, you’ll find your ability to focus much stronger with less effort after a week of regular exercise.

#3 Get Good Sleep

One night of bad sleep the night before circling could erase the benefits of years of meditation and weeks of exercise. However, a night of bad sleep requires many nights of good sleep before you’ll recover from that one night. You’ll benefit the most from regular good sleep, pretty much every night if you can manage.

Unfortunately, I know many people who, however hard they try, do not get regular good sleep. I cannot give you the formula for how to get a good night’s sleep, and you may be one of the unlucky people who cannot sleep well for some undetermined reason. However, if you haven’t investigated why you don’t sleep, then do! Consult a doctor if you do not know why you don’t sleep well. Put forth a good effort to figure this out.

Of course, you may not sleep well because you simply don’t go to sleep. You may spend late nights on your screen checking for the next laughable cute cat video or obsessing over your friends’ news feeds. You may play video games late into the night. Or maybe you are addicted to tango dancing that starts at 10pm. Whatever your reasons for staying up past your optimal bedtime, don’t do it.

Figure out what your optimal bedtime is… and your optimal wake up time. I learned mine by trial and error. My optimal bedtime is between 9:30 and 10pm and my optimal wake up time is about 7 to 7:30am though 6am works well if I really fall asleep and sleep soundly around 9:30pm. What’s most important for me is to sleep about 8-8.5hrs and NOT longer! That last part was an interesting discovery. I found when I allowed my self to savor that half awake half asleep hour in the morning after first waking up that I was more tired throughout the day than if I got out of bed soon after I first woke up. You’ll have to figure this out for yourself.

Like exercise, good regular sleep has numerous health benefits, but what we are concerned about is how sleep helps focus, concentration, a sense of peace, a sense of relaxation, and endurance. All of these qualities benefit the circling practitioner; again, as we sit in front of a person for an hour and try to get their world.

#2 Eat Good Food

I labored a bit deciding whether eating well or sleeping well should be #2. I’m still not sure which one belongs in this spot, maybe they should be tied for #2. Either way, here it is: eat good food. Or if you want: it well.

I’m reading Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. He sums up everything he learned about food with this:

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Michael Pollan

There’s so much going on in the practice of eating well and so much I don’t know about. I highly recommend following the link above. Food can affect your mood, your energy, your ability to concentrate, as well as your health. I believe if we, in western society, ate better that a slew of diseases and problems would evaporate. Including social problems, not just personal health problems.

I spent months in 2008 paying attention… to everything… and especially my diet and how it affected me and my relationship to food. I cannot go into all the details of my discoveries, but a few things come to mind.

I started reading Gandhi’s auto-biography many years ago and I put it down. I put it down because all he talked about for chapter after chapter was diet and his relationship to food! I puzzled over this for a long time until I realized how connected eating was to Gandhi’s spiritual practice and indeed everything was connected to his spiritual practice. In fact, I began to suspect how much food was connected to my spiritual practice whether I acknowledged it or not.

About that same time I was really enjoying a singer song writer I recently discovered from a friend’s recommendation: David Wilcox. The song of relevance here is “Down Inside Myself”. The story, told in song form, goes about like this: a man is seeking to feel better because he is feeling down – really down. He searches and finds a wise man on top of a far away mountain. The wise man listens to him and gives him the solution to his problems:

Your problem ain’t philosophy, so get it down to size. Right now, it’s physiological in a logical disguise… the cure is very simple and it works in half an hour: get some sleep, eat some broccoli, run a mile, and take a shower…

David Wilcox in “Down Inside Myself”

I probably listened to the song half a dozen times before I really heard those words and they woke me up a little. I took the advice and immediately ate some broccoli and paid attention to how I felt. I felt better! Wow! Amazing!

Recently I discovered just why this might work. Folate (AKA folic acid, vitamin B9), found in broccoli, improves mood and concentration. Perhaps more accurately, a deficiency in folate can cause depression and lack of concentration.

I share all this with you in an attempt to motivate you to eat better and to look at your eating habits with the perspective of “wow, what I’m eating may be really affecting me in ways I never before considered!” You will be able to show up more fully in circling if you are not down inside yourself, if you have energy, and are able to concentrate.

#1 Drink Water

Surprise! I hope the number one practice is genuinely the biggest surprise for you. I’ll start with a paraphrased quote I remember from Decker Kunov, one of the best circling facilitators in the world and some probably rank him #1. “Every day I drink a full glass of water as soon as I wake up before I get out of bed.” I cannot remember why he said this or what his reasons were for doing it, but I tried it. For me it ended up being two glasses of water and I did walk to the kitchen to pour and drink them.

Have you ever felt tired in the middle of the day and you didn’t know why? I suggest you read over all the symptoms of dehydration and see how many apply to you; then try drinking more water and see how many of those symptoms disappear. You may feel tired because sleepiness and low energy are signs of dehydration. Many times when I feel this I drink a whole glass of water and feel better within minutes.

It comes down to this: your body needs water to function properly and effectively. This applies to pretty much any thing you’re going to do, including circling. Most American’s are dehydrated, and if you feel thirsty, you’ve already reached the dehydration mark. Drink about 8 cups of water a day (that’s half a gallon or about 2 liters). Drink more when you exercise, it’s hot, or anything that may have caused more water loss. Exactly how much you drink depends on you, your environment, and your activities. I use my pee to determine if I’m on track. If it’s yellowish and clear then I’m doing good. If it’s dark then I immediately up my water intake. If I have a headache, the first thing I do is drink a glass of water. Same if I’m tired.

Just like the other secrets here, this will improve your energy and concentration while focusing on one person for 60 minutes to get their world. Drinking more water may be the easiest of all these secrets and I believe it is the most foundational.


If I were to put a 6th practice on this list it would be to actually circle and circle often. However, this isn’t much of a secret, so I’ll just mention it and the importance of practicing. You have to do something and do it frequently for the brain to learn. Regular small doses of circling will work better than a weekend long retreat a couple times a year. If there isn’t regular circling happening in your area, find some friends that want to get together weekly and practice. Use one of these wonderful books to help you get started:

“The Art of Circling” may be costly for some, but it breaks down the art of circling into easy exercises to practice. For 6-12 months my friends and I got together weekly and selected one of the oracles from this book and circled with them in mind.

Good luck! Remember to enjoy and not force yourself.


Interrupting is not impolite. It just is. But the place you’re coming from during an interruption can make a world of difference for what happens next.

You’ve probably had one of those experiences where you are waiting for the other person to finish what they are saying. Not because you have something to say that just can’t wait, but because just when they seem finished they transition to another subject or story. They continue… on… and… on…

Is it really polite to continue listening? To pretend like you’re listening? To pretend like you don’t have this anxiety building or impatience or need to leave for an appointment that started 5 minutes ago?

I believe the answer is “no”, it is not polite to listen when you do not want to listen.

This is, however, just one situation where interrupting may be a good solution. It’s also possible that someone has said what they seem to want to say and they repeat themselves in numerous different ways, ad infinitum. It’s also possible that they just aren’t saying what they really want to say and you think you have a grasp on what they’re saying. It’s also possible that you don’t have time. It’s also possible you have something to say. It’s also possible you have a need that isn’t being met.

What I want to cover in this post are ways to talk, listen, and interrupt that I believe can take the conversation to the next level and really have both people’s needs met.

There are 3 roles you can be in: you could be the speaker, you could be the listener trying to decide if you should interrupt or not, or you could be the third party witnessing an interruption. I would like to cover what you can do in each of these roles to create a more purposeful conversation.


Here you are listening and it becomes effortful to listen. You may be feeling anxious, you may be feeling tired, you may be distracted. In any of these situations, I suggest something needs to change in order for a more authentic interaction to happen.

In the simplest of situations you may ask “could I interrupt you for a moment?” or “could we pause for a moment, there’s something going on for me?”

As long as you remain silent, your needs won’t be met, whatever they may be. Given that the other person continues to talk, it is likely they are trying to meet a need and their need is not getting met. At some level you want to get in touch with your own needs or the other person’s needs and make an effort for them to be met. You can get curious about your own feelings and needs or about the others.

Sometimes, in order to get curious about my own needs I need silence. This is a case where I may just ask for silence until I have a moment to see what’s going on for me. You may find you have a similar need and ask the other person something like “Excuse me, I’m noticing something is going on for me and it seems subtle or hard for me to be in touch with, will you pause for a moment while I get in touch with what I’m feeling and I’ll let you know when I’m ready to continue?”

If you choose to get in touch with the other person’s needs, then you might listen from a different place asking yourself the question, “what is he/she really needing right now?” If you think you have an idea then maybe you ask, “One sec, I think I’m getting that you really want to be understood? Is that right?”

You may also summarize what the other person is saying and ask if your summary feels true for them.


As a speaker I suggest you be concise! Say what you want to say and stop. Be silent.

This can be really challenging. I’ve felt a lot of discomfort in the silence after I speak. Sometimes the discomfort is that I haven’t actually said what I wanted to say yet. Other times I’m afraid the group conversation will move on and no one will acknowledge what I said. In these moments, I’m afraid I just haven’t been heard. That’s a risk worth taking, though. What is it in you that needs to be heard? And if that’s really what you need, why not directly ask for it!?

Sitting in the discomfort and not continuing to speak is a great practice.

Really getting in touch with what you want to say can be challenging. Sometimes I pause before I speak and really check in. Sometimes I ask the group to wait with me in silence as I check in with myself. The greatest obstacle for me has been to be fully vulnerable with what I want to say and what my need is in saying it.

As the speaker, you may be interrupted. In that moment you have some options. You may be tempted to feel hurt by the interruption and use some anger to regain the attention. But I suggest you take a moment to check a few things.

  • Did the other person agree to listen to you? If so, then perhaps you can remind them of that agreement. If not, then try to let go of societal norms around “not interrupting” or “interrupting is impolite”. The other person didn’t agree to listen, so don’t hold them to listening without explicit consent.
  • Did you finish saying what you wanted to say and were rambling? If so, then either you could let the interruptor continue or ask for verification they heard you before they continue. If you did not finish what you were saying, perhaps this is a moment to be more vulnerable and say what you were really trying to say.
  • Are you speaking in order to meet an unmet need? If so, the interruptor may be detecting this on an unconscious (or even conscious) level. You could request a moment to share this need more directly.

There are many options you have following an interruption. Dropping the story that the other person is impolite or that you are entitled to continue until you are finished will help reveal other options.

The thing I find interesting about being interrupted is that it immediately switches your role to listener and you have to choose whether or not you will interrupt! And if you choose to interrupt, you certainly cannot judge the other as impolite for interrupting.


If you are witnessing someone interrupting someone else and believe the interruption is not serving connection then you may have something to do here. This happens when one person interrupts another because they cannot wait to speak, but in fact the other person was really saying something – not repeating, not trailing off into tangental subjects. Sometimes these interruptions happen when the original speaker pauses to check how they are feeling.

Here are some strategies to respond to these types of interruptions.

First, don’t be so quick to turn your head to the person who interrupted. I see this often in groups. Someone interrupts and everyone in the group turns their heads… why do we do this? I don’t know, but if you keep your eyes and bodies on the original speaker then the group attention may stay more focused. The original speaker may feel more connected and have their need to be seen and respected met.

This isn’t to say that after a moment you don’t shift your attention to the interrupter. Perhaps there was a good reason to interrupt. But let yourself have a moment to make a choice and not turn your head out of habit.

Another strategy is to interrupt the interruptor. I suggest doing this immediately if possible with something like, “hold on, I really want to hear the rest of Jane’s thought.” or “can you wait for a minute, I think Joe was getting to something.” or “One moment, I think Jeff was checking something in his silence and I want to hear the result of his efforts.”


Interrupting is not inherently impolite. It is neutral, but the intent behind the interruption could be one to connect or one to replace another’s efforts to be heard with our own. And in fact, interrupting may be the kindest thing for us to do if we really are not engaged with the conversation. Finding a way to engage by looking for the other’s needs or revealing our own is a great way to reestablish connection.

Here are the actions you might take to create more connection in your conversations:

  1. Be concise. Say what you want to say and stop in that uncomfortable silence.
  2. Take time before you speak to really get in touch with what you want to say.
  3. Keep your eyes on the original speaker when he/she is interrupted. Take a moment to decide to shift your attention or not.
  4. Interrupt the interruptor and bring attention back to the original speaker.
  5. Let people take time in silence to get in touch with what they want to say.
  6. Interrupt to get the other person more fully or express your needs and make a request.


We take in lots of information through our senses, and our brains process this information in ways we cannot fathom! We can open ourselves to take in this information, allow our bodies to be impacted by it, connect with sensations in the body, and practice articulating what we sense. Through this practice we can see things and connect with people in ways that seem like magic and, in my experience, satisfy a deep need for connection and understanding. This is what I practice when I circle. If you read nothing more of this article I think you’ve got the essence of what I’m writing here.

I see examples of what we are capable of in many places. But the first example I want to share is my dog. She cannot speak. She does not understand language. Yet, my dog and I communicate… quite effectively. I find myself asking the question regularly, “How did you know we were going to …?” or “How did you know I was going to …?” So I’ve paid close attention to my subtle movements, intonation of voice, patterns of behavior, and anything else I could notice about me that might betray my intentions.

There’s no hiding. There’s no such thing as a secret. All we can do is not put something into words.

Maggie, my dog, will anticipate my commands when we are training or practicing. I have maybe a dozen or more “tricks” or “useful behaviors” that I’ve trained her to do. Some of them are complex and others are simple. In order for her to remember them and execute them well, we need to practice. During practice I intentionally try to randomize the order of the commands, reduce unnecessary movements and sounds coming from me, and exercise them repeatedly. Often when we’re having one of these practice sessions she’ll do a trick before I even start to voice the command… and it’s the right trick!! I haven’t done any controlled study to see if perhaps she’s just randomly trying things and I’m only remembering the times where she succeeds. But if I pause for a moment and consider… it’s not so important whether I have a memory bias here. She’s trying to read me and anticipate and at least sometimes she succeeds.

I have experimented with sending small signals to see if she’s noticing or paying attention; like moving a single finger a little to one side on the hand that’s by my side while she’s looking at my face. To be clear, she’s sitting in front of me looking at my face, my hand is in her peripheral vision, and I am making a small adjustment. Sure enough, she’ll do something in response to that movement. Maybe she just glances at the hand to see if it will do something more. Or maybe she’ll lie down. Or even turn around.

I am convinced through my relationship with her that she is paying attention to lots of subtle cues. She’s taking in lots of information about where I am, how I’m positioned, how I’m moving, how I’m sounding, and where I’m looking.

I’ve also experienced this in dancing. I often have these experiences in social partner dances where my partner does things in alignment with my intended movement as a lead but before I really led the thing. I notice this most when I change my mind just before I execute the lead and my partner does the first thing I thought of and not the thing that I actually tried to lead. Often, my partner will apologize to which I reply, “actually, that’s what I wanted you to do and then I changed my mind, so my apology for changing something on you with short notice”.

There’s also those moments in partner dancing where my partner and I move together as one and it’s unclear where the movements are coming from, yet we continue to be in sync and together in our movements. What I’ve come to believe is going on here is a tuned listening to each other’s bodies and movements that’s so precise and so deep that we are actually able to sense each other’s intentions. Combine that with willingness and ease of changing my own intentions, my partner’s willingness and ease of changing hers, and a shared intention to align our intentions; and we get movement as one.

Back to circling.

This applies in conversation, too, but I think it is exceptionally difficult in conversation because we are usually paying close attention to the words and thoughts of the other… or perhaps just our own thoughts in response to the words of the other… or sometimes just our own thoughts… period. What I want in circling and in conversation is to feel connected and to see the other person. I want them to see me, too. I think this happens best when we bring in the lessons from Maggie and social dancing: listen to everything, not just the words. In fact, it’s fair to say we can just ignore the words all together in most situations and get the basic communication; which is not what’s being said by the way.

I feel called to move into sharing the process that’s happening for me in more detail without giving more examples, support, and explanations of the situations.

The process is perceiving, feeling, processing, translating, and articulating. It starts with perceiving sights, sounds and movements in the form of words, intonation, facial expressions, gestures, direction of gaze, body posture, and anything else that can be perceived. When we take all that in, feelings and sensations are created in our bodies. These feelings and sensations inform us on a subtle level what is going on. They’re like an impression from a foot in the sand. Our brains and bodies process this information… in fact, they are built to process this information in incredible ways! From a footprint in the sand (to extend the analogy) we may know the weight and approximate height of the person who left it as well as the way they walk and what part of their foot strikes the ground first and much more. Our brains are built for this. But. The signals aren’t in words. The brain and body work in primal ancient ways that came way before words. So we connect with those primal signals by being aware of our sensations and feelings. Then we can try to translate what we feel and articulate our translation with words.

There are many places where this can go wrong. We may not be paying any attention to what we are perceiving. We may not see things, hear things, or notice things that are going on for the other person. As our first step, we bring awareness to all that is happening (not just the words). Once we are perceiving everything, we must open our bodies to be impacted by what we perceive. I know my body tends to close to what I perceive. Something in me does not want to be impacted because I’m afraid, on a deep intuitive level, of the impact being unpleasant or distracting. In the second step, we practice relaxing and opening our bodies to feel what we feel when we perceive fully what is happening. Now that we are perceiving and feeling our body-mind will process automatically, but we still need to connect to those feelings consciously. Without a conscious connection the processing remains… well… unconscious. It still works in us and impacts us and affects us, but we are unaware of it and may be controlled by it. In the third step, we connect with our bodies and the impact. Now that we’re connected, we have conscious awareness of what’s going on inside us, but this inner activity has no words. It is pre-language. In the fourth step, we translate it. This translation skill is not one we are gifted with naturally, it is one that must be practiced and learned. There is yet a fifth potential block for this process: the inadequacy of language. There is no easy way to get around this block. We simply do not have words for some things. Anyone who’s done a serious study of multiple languages will recognize that in one language there are words that have no equivalent in the other language. So we must practice putting words on things we have no words for. This is also a skill, and a very difficult one, to practice and learn.

I want to take a moment to elucidate that last concept even more. Imagine there is no word “table”. Now imagine that no one has ever even talked about tables. Yet, we use them every day to set our plates of food on, to sit at and study or read while sipping tea, and many other activities. But we never talk about them. Imagine, now, we’re all sitting in a room that has no tables and you’re having a desire or need related tables. Say you are holding a book and want the book to be put back on your table in your bedroom. If we had the word for table you could just say, “Will you put this book on the table in my bedroom?” But in your bedroom is a table, a nightstand, a desk, a dresser, and… wait for it… a bookshelf. All of which are suitable for placing a book, and one is particularly calling for the book: the bookshelf. Now you must describe to the others what you want them to do. What would you say? “Will you put this book on the thing in my room that isn’t the dresser, the night stand, the desk, or the bookshelf?” The person returns after putting the book on the thing in your room. You later go check and find they placed it on the bed! Ooops! Forget to mention the bed. Sure, you could add “bed to the list of things” and the book might end up on the floor. So you could say, “On the thing that has four legs and a flat top.” And then you find they placed the book on the wooden chair! I think you may begin to see how hard it is to put words on something that has no words, but this example is actually quite easy, in my experience, compared to the translation of the inner ineffable experience I have of the impact of other people’s words.

Yet, I have managed to find words for many experiences that land for the other person. With this, I want to say, it is possible to do the translation. And often, the translation is simpler than I am making it appear with my example above. I find often the translation is “You’re sad” or “You feel hurt” or “you’re afraid of what so-and-so will do” or “you’re excited” or “you’re in love” or something like this.

I could spend a lot more time on this translation step, but I want to wrap up this article because the main point is in the overall process and the basic blocks that we may encounter along the way.

For easy reference they are

  1. perceive – perceive everything; block: not actually paying attention to what’s going on or just paying attention to words.
  2. be open to impact – allow our bodies to feel what they feel; block: fear of impact and/or bodies are closed to feeling.
  3. process the information – this part is automatic and is the builtin intelligence of our body-mind; block: we don’t bring awareness to the processing and the body sensations such that everything remains unconscious.
  4. translate – take the information and put words and a thought to it; block: the block here is simply that we don’t try and haven’t practiced and therefore don’t have the skill.
  5. articulate – find the right words to concisely express what we have noticed; block: language is an inherent block here and there are often no words or not the right words, so again we need to practice our language skills.

I wish for you mastery of this process and an experience of what it is like to connect with someone when you use this method of observation and communication. It really can seem like telepathy at times. Like magic. And like magic we can be in awe and amazement with each other and by each other. Delightfully surprised. Connected.

Facilitating from the Deeper “I”

I believe everything is “better” when it comes from the deeper “I”, but in this post I will talk specifically about what happens when facilitating from that place, how we can access that place, and what that place is.

The Deeper “I”

This may not resonate with you or it may sound too woowoo or like rubbish. I would like to ask that you set aside any skepticism right now and read this as a possibility and not something to be evaluated as fact or fiction. Though for some of you this will land immediately, the words here are pointers to something I’ve experienced and witnessed. Perhaps there will come a time when something will happen and you’ll remember these words and exclaim “Aha! I see!”. Or perhaps this really is rubbish and all in my imagination. I don’t want to claim a truth for you.

Here is the possibility.

The Deeper “I” is the source of life itself. In fact, it is the source of the universe.  I use “I” here to emphasize our connection to the Source. I use “Deeper” to distinguish between the personal “I” and the truer essence of our existence. The Source has a natural movement that emanates through everything. I find this easiest to witness when I watch trees or other life in nature. Contrast that to humans where most people most of the time act from a place of “will”. They want something or think something and then make it happen. There is not this kind of will in a tree to grow, to shed its leaves in the fall, or to sprout flowers and seeds in the spring. But it does. The Source empowers the tree with these abilities and sets them in motion. It’s a kind of deep will that emanates from deep within the essence of the tree.

The Source emanates from within you, too. It’s always emanating, but it does not always come through to the surface.


The Source is always emanating into us, but there is another character in play. The Ego. The Ego has gotten a bad wrap, but fulfills a very important purpose. The problem is when we are unnecessarily coming from the Ego and the Ego is making the choices without input from the Deeper “I”. In a sense, we are blocking the Source… or rather… our Ego is blocking the Source.

The Ego gets activated by many different things and can be very tricky. I’ll highlight a couple that I think are particularly common as a facilitator: nervousness, desire to look good/receive praise, desire to be valuable (be a teacher/spiritual/facilitator), desire to give others a good experience. I think all these distill down to something about self worth.

To access the Deeper “I” you must detach your self worth from what happens in front of a group as a facilitator. You must also be comfortable in front of the group, though this comfort may be the same as detaching your self worth.

I have two ways to practice this access. Practice not in front of the group and practice in front of the group. When alone, meditation can be used to increase the chance to connect to the Source, or rather, be aware of the Source and quiet the Ego. Your value will become obvious and unimportant when you feel the Source. When you’re in front of the group you can also meditate. Practice silence in front of the group and checking in with yourself. If you feel awkward doing this then lead the group in a silent meditation by instructing them to do what you are doing as you sit in front of them. Also, you could simply tell them what you’re doing, perhaps in terms that are understandable by most people. For example, “I don’t know what I want to say yet, so I’m waiting and just allowing myself to feel into this moment. [pause]”. You can even take it a step further and more vulnerable by following with, “You may feel anxious for us to get into the exercises or awkward with the silence. I invite you to let go of that and know there is nothing for you to do here right now. I also feel some awkwardness and anxiousness and I just want to give it a moment to pass so that my words are not from that place. [pause]” What you want to do here is trust in the moment. Trust that the words will come. Trust that silence is ok.

A third practice is to facilitate to an empty room. Speak as if people are there. Use the examples above or create your own. Really speak out loud as if the room were full. Give time for the invisible participants to respond, move, interact. Play the whole scenario in your imagination, but for your role, actually speak, move, walk, etc. as you would if this were a real event.

When waiting in silence, the words may not come. I know I cannot always access my connection to the Source. Sometimes I just move on with the best words I have for the moment. This is totally fine. It’s really important that you don’t get caught up in self judgement about not being connected to Source. You gave it a chance! That’s what matters. Just move along and give it more chances. Eventually, it will come. You’ll have access. Judgements will block it strongly because they are from the Ego. See if you can let go of judgements… and don’t forget the trap of judging yourself for having judgements! Smile and notice those, too.

In some ways, accessing source is like digging a hole. Each time you welcome silence you take a shovel full of dirt out of the whole. The longer the silence the bigger the shovel full. So your efforts are not in vain even if you do not experience the Source immediately. Also, your every day life may pile on more dirt. I’m suggesting here that you simply continue and trust. Continue holding space for silence and listening. This analogy isn’t perfect and I want to mention that the Source shines through the dirt sometimes and has a certain amount of randomness to it. What we are really doing is increasing the probability, not providing guaranteed access.

The Result

When the Source shines through your words will come with greater ease, you’ll say different things, you’ll probably say less or at least not ramble, and the group will likely feel a power in your presence. People may feel safe, free to express or explore, and probably more peaceful.

There is another, possibly more important, result. You won’t be responsible for what happens. This is a great relief to the Ego. You will just be a channel for what’s happening. Perhaps a little fuzzy at times, but a channel just the same. You get to step back and watch.


Step back and watch… that can be really vulnerable and edgy. What might come up is an awareness of your own feelings and a desire to express what you see. And it may not be “nice” what you see. As you facilitate you may share vulnerably your awareness of your state, your feelings, your sensations. This may inspire trust from the group in you.

I caution you in sharing vulnerably just because you know it’s edgy. In some cases sharing your inner state is not what the moment calls for. When you practice silence in front of the group, you may take that silence before you share and see what really feels alive to share. Where is the Source taking your awareness. Maybe your awareness moves in that silence and sharing a vulnerable sensation or emotion you have isn’t relevant or “productive”.

Your experience is for you and is informing you. There is no default inherent value in sharing your experience. There is value in noticing your experience and allowing it to inform you… and the information may be “this is relevant to share!”

Give it a try!

I encourage you to give it a try. To practice facilitating an empty room. To add silence to your facilitation. To inform the participants what you’re doing in holding silence. To wait in that silence. I encourage you to meditate or practice yin yoga or some other practice that involves stillness and silence. Look into how you feel in these moments. Listen for movements from within. Have faith that something is wanting inside you to come out into the world and take time to listen for it and give time and space for it. This force from the Source does not coerce you… it just gently pushes up from within. You must give it space and remove pressures for it to succeed.

Good luck!

Circling 101

If you are new to circling or never even experienced it, this article contains what you need to get started. What you’ll find here is a very basic simplified practice of circling for you to try with your friends. The idea is to give you enough to taste what circling has to offer without giving you so much that you are overwhelmed and confused. I suggested circling as I’ve outlined it here until you find it easy or second nature.

Setting Up

Make groups of 3 people each. Each group is its own circle. Each circle should have enough space between it and other circles to give a sense of privacy. This distance will also help you hear each other and not be distracted.

Choose who will be “circled”. The person being circled will be receive the questions and attention of the other two. The other two are the circlers. So now we have two roles: circlee and circler.

Set a timer for 15 minutes. Put the timer where it cannot be seen but can be heard. You don’t want to be distracted by the time. I suggest a bell tone that is gentle in nature and just loud enough to hear but not distract the moment it rings.

These are all the logistics of setting up the circle. Once you’ve completed them, start the timer, and enter into your role as circler and circlee. The instructions for each role are below.

In summary:

  • Make groups of 3 and spread the groups out for privacy.
  • Choose the circlee.
  • Set a 15 minute time and put it aside where it won’t distract.
  • Start the timer.


Your role is to ask questions from genuine curiosity. That’s it. But what does that mean? It means if you ask the question and the circlee chooses not to answer you would maybe be disappointed, or hunger for the answer, or the question would stick in your mind. Genuine curiosity isn’t any different than curiosity… I’m just emphasizing that I don’t want you to fake it. I want you to feel it. Like when you’re a kid and you see a frog. You follow the frog because you are fascinated by it. You pick it up. You look at it. You are curious!

I emphasize curiosity by prepending the word “genuine” because often we ask questions and we really don’t care about the answers. Typical questions of this nature are “where are you from?”, “What do you do?”, “Do you have any siblings?”, “What is your name?”, “What did you do last weekend?” Now. Don’t avoid those questions just because I listed them here. You might genuinely be curious about where someone is from, what they do, or what they did last weekend. But take a moment to check before asking.

We find our genuine curiosity by waiting in silence looking at the circlee. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable. Stay with it.

The question you want to ask may edgy. You may be afraid or embarrassed to ask it. I challenge you to ask the question anyway. Though I do want you to use your judgement in deciding to ask the question or not. So for this beginner practice I suggest you lean into that discomfort a little and ask the questions that are a little edgy. You can increase the edgy-ness as you continue to practice.

Keep your questions short. A short concise question will give time for the circle to move on a journey through the circlee’s world.

Some common questions that I’ve seen come up when people are asking from genuine curiosity are “What’s your love life like?”, “How do you feel right now here with us?”, “What’s something you’re passionate about?”, “What’s your biggest fear?” Just like with the questions I gave as examples of not-genuine-curiosity, do not use these questions just because they are in this list. These questions appear here to prime your curiosity.

If you’re ever feeling bored… then there is something you’re holding back. This practice is anything but boring! Consider that you aren’t asking about what you’re really interested in!

In summary:

  • Ask questions from genuine curiosity.
  • Wait in the awkward silence for the genuine curiosity to arise before asking.
  • Lean into your edge to ask the scary or “embarrassing” questions.
  • Keep your questions short.
  • If you’re bored, perhaps you’re not asking from genuine curiosity.


Your role is to answer questions honestly or choose not to answer. That’s it.

The choice to not answer cannot be understated! This is a powerful way to help the circlers find their curiosity. If you find the question uninteresting or boring to answer then there’s a good chance the circler will find it boring to and maybe just isn’t curios about the question they asked. You may simply say, “That question isn’t interesting to me.” or “I think I’d be bored answering that question. Will you ask another?”

Another reason to choose not to answer a question is if you feel too vulnerable answering. I want you to lean into your edge and give honest open answers, but if a question is too edgy or too personal for you then you may opt to skip it. The point of circling is to get to know someone more deeply, so if you don’t answer any personal/edgy questions then the circle will be flat and boring. The circlers will not know you any better and you will not benefit by being seen. You must pace yourself here, lean in to your edge, don’t jump off a cliff of vulnerability. You’ll become more and more transparent over time and more and more comfortable sharing what you use to consider really personal. And you’ll always have something too personal to share in a give moment with a given audience. That’s normal and healthy.

Keep your answers short. If you take too much time answering then the circlee’s will not have the chance to follow the threads you open up with your share. Their curiosity may fall flat. We want each question and each step to be small and on the path of curiosity. Long answers take us off the path.

In summary:

  • Answer the question even if it is edgy.
  • Don’t answer if something is too edgy or too vulnerable for you to share.
  • Don’t answer if something isn’t alive for you.
  • Keep your answers short.


Closing the circle should be done in 1-5 minutes after the timer rings (plus the initial 15 minutes that makes a maximum of 20 minutes for the circle). Set a timer for 5 minutes if you must to be sure you honor the time. We don’t want to abruptly end the circle if something is alive or someone is feeling something strong.

On first hearing the bell, allow whoever is speaking to finish. One of the circlers should verbally acknowledge the bell with a statement like, “I heard the bell. So we’ll be wrapping up shortly.”

Circlers may ask closing questions like “Is there anything more you want to share before we close?”, “Is there anything you need from us?”, or “Would you like some silence / a hug / or a hand to hold?”

If necessary, bookmark things with statements like, “I see this is really alive and we could explore this much more. How about we close here and we can revisit that another circle if its still alive?”

Circling takes energy and focus. The time container helps limit the time we exercise just like when you’re doing physical exercise. You need a break. A break to let the muscles of your mind rest.

In summary:

  • Acknowledge the bell after the current speaker is finished.
  • Ask closing questions.
  • If necessary, bookmark what’s alive for another day.
  • Close on time so you can rest.


This is your opportunity to reflect with each other on what went well and what might be changed. This can be an open conversation about anything you experienced or think.

I suggest you start by answering these two questions:

  • Circlee: what do you wish the circlers asked that they did not ask?
  • Circlers: what moment felt most alive for you?

In the interest of time you may stop there and have another few circles. Though sometimes a longer debrief can be valuable.


This should get you started circling. It is a very simple version of circling designed specifically for beginners. It should be a great way to start the practice.