A Circle of Trust

Until Wellspring I didnt realize how rarely in my life I am listened to deeply, without interruption. What a gift it is!A Wellspring Participant

The Wellspring small-group experience is based on Parker Palmer’s circle of trust as described in his book A Hidden Wholeness. Eight to 10 participants and their facilitator sit in a circle practicing deep listening, silence, and reflection as they contemplate the “third thing” that has been brought into the circle. That “third thing” may be a poem, the readings for the week, or a spiritual practice shared with the group.

Seattle Sept 2014 1A circle of trust has spaces of silence to invite the “shy soul to emerge.” Participants are invited, as the spirit moves them, to share what insights arise as they reflect on the third thing. That reflection is one’s individual truth. As Palmer puts it:

But no matter what the content may be, speaking our truth in a circle of trust always takes the same form: we speak from our own center to the center of the circle–to the receptive heart of the communal space–where what we say will be held attentively and respectfully.

A circle of trust is different from a discussion group where each awaits their turn to speak to ask a question or bring a new fact to change the other person’s point of view. There is no cross talk, no fixing, no comments … just deep listening to each other and to the still small voice within, which you may share or not.

But deep listening within a circle of truth is a magical way of learning. As a person sits in a circle of trust and speaks his or her truth into the communal circle, and then hear another and another and another speak their truths, their reflections, one’s understanding is deepened by all that is heard. Each shapes the others’ perceptions, and an aggregate truth emerges in the center of the circle that could not evolve independently.

The poet Emily Dickson admonishes us to:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant….the truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind

The circle of trust reminds us that no one of us ever has THE TRUTH. We each carry a piece of the whole. Just as none of us can grow into who we are without the community to reflect ourselves back to us, so does our spiritual deepening take root and flower in the circle of trust where we listen deeply to the reflections of each others’ hearts. I am reminded of Robert Frost’s words:

We dance round in a ring and suppose but the secret sits in the middle and knows.

Really—isn’t that dance around the ring supposing the most we can ever do? Maybe the secret is always secret because there is no single truth?

Perhaps the greatest gift of Wellspring is that over the passage of a few months, listening in a circle of trust, eight to 10 strangers become spiritual friends. They may not know the facts of each other’s lives but they will know each other’s spirituality. It’s a beautiful thing.

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