Our Friday morning Wellspring group met yesterday for the first regular session. The reading assignment was Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness. I am so grateful for having this deep and wonderful book as the focus of our first meeting because it smoothes the way toward our being together with love and caring.
Palmer describes how to be intentional about developing a circle of trust, focusing on listening as much as speaking. He asks us to listen without planning what we’re going to say next, to hold a moment of silence between speakers, to allow safe space for the “shy soul” to appear. He says, “… as we are liberated from adversarial speaking and listening, we are much more likely to hear and reflect on things we ourselves have said. Now we have the disarming experience of being taught by our own inner teacher.” Operating this way in our circle means trusting that each of us will learn from our own inner teacher. It means no fixing, no advising, no setting the other straight. It means creating a safe space for each of us to hear our inner voice.
It’s not an easy task, and the Wellspring covenant helps us create that safe space in our groups. At our opening retreat two weeks ago, we talked about the covenant briefly. Yesterday we talked about it in depth, and A Hidden Wholeness encouraged us to think about what the covenant means to us as individuals and as a group.
Here’s what our covenant says:
- Ask for what we need
- Help Jen, Libby and Joy facilitate, as appropriate
- Begin and end on time
- Develop a personal covenant that will benefit the person who wrote it (and, we hope, the entire group)
- Do the pre-work
- Listen openly and humbly, not attempting to judge or fix others
- Speak from our own personal experience
- Maintain appropriate confidentiality by telling only our personal stories when speaking outside the group
- Respect and be attentive to Jen’s time and role within the group
- Share the air time
- Welcome and encourage humor
- Revisit the covenant, as needed
In past years, I’ve given the covenant less attention, feeling that we would manage to get along fine without having to talk about it. But yesterday’s conversation in our group gave me a new appreciation for the value in being explicit about how we are together, for our covenant with each other to do this work and to be together in a safe and loving way. May we continue to build a circle of trust where we can all feel safe and heard.