The Sharing Circle basic recipe is very simple but is open to lots of additional personal flavour. Schools, families, colleagues, friends, support groups and even complete strangers can all benefit and so we would like to share the gift of Sharing Circles with you.
Why are Sharing Circle’s important?
- They are a platform which allow us to identify our feelings, to express ourselves fully, and to experience the art of sharing and listening
- Sharing Circles allow us to learn from each other and develop strong relationships built on trust and acceptance
- Confidence and self-esteem will be developed
What is a Sharing Circle?
Perhaps the most important characteristic of a Sharing Circle is the intention behind it. The intention of creating a sacred space. A space that is inclusive. A space where individuals listen to each other, with their hearts rather than their heads. Where people feel free to express who they are and how they feel without fear of judgment or consequences. A space where there is a common understanding that what is shared in the circle, remains in the circle – an agreement of confidentiality.
Sharing Circle Guidelines
Although our guidelines are fairly prescriptive, Sharing Circles can take on all shapes, sizes and forms so feel free to adjust as you feel inspired.
Who takes part in Sharing Circles? The answer to this is absolutely anyone! As long as someone understands the common intention and is committed to co-operate they can be part of a Sharing Circle. The circle should be a small group of between three and fifteen people.
Where should a Sharing Circle be held? Ideally a Sharing Circle should be held in a space where outside distractions are minimal and where people feel safe and comfortable.
When should Sharing Circles take place? It is preferable to set a time when everyone will be able to participate on an ongoing basis. The Sharing Circles should be held fairly regularly with consistent intervals. For example, once a week or once a month.
How does a Sharing Circle actually work? Sharing Circles can be divided into three sections: Attunement, Sharing and Closure.
1) The purpose of the Attunement is to focus the energy of the group and set the tone of the sharing. It aims to bring everyone into the present, to release their day and consciously be Body, Mind and Soul in the circle.
The Attunement will be guided by someone in the group who is called the focaliser. The focaliser can always be the same individual or someone different, as time goes on and others feel comfortable to lead.
An example of an Attunement is as follows:
- Everyone holds hands and closes their eyes.
- Take a few deep breaths in and out
- The focaliser brings attention to something that everyone can say ‘yes’ to. For example, “Can you hear the sound of the rain outside?” or “Can you feel the breeze on your skin?” The feeling or observation is welcomed rather than resisted
- The focaliser then brings everyone into their bodies and into the present. For example, “Feel the Earth beneath your feet, be aware of your spine up straight, feel your hands connecting with the people next to you.”
- The focaliser then opens up the sharing space. For example, “Let’s invite in the qualities of trust and sharing. Lets co create a beautiful space of acceptance.”
- The focaliser can then gently squeeze the person next to them’s hand and this can be passed around the circle signifying the end of the attunement
- Everyone can drop hands and open their eyes
This is just one example of how to attune but there are infinite possibilities. Also, depending on the group, the situation and the time available, the content and length can vary. Some people may not feel comfortable closing their eyes or holding hands. This is fine. The focaliser could then say “gently drop your gaze and be aware of everyone else’ presence in the circle.”
The important thing is for the focaliser to be calm and centered, and aware of the groups’ energy. The focaliser can be creative and have fun with different variations every circle.
2) The body of the Sharing Circle is the actual Sharing itself. This is when each person gets a chance to speak while the others listen without interrupting (as tempting as this may be at times).
The focaliser can start in order to set the tone and the general time. Sharing Circles can vary from being a quick one minute check-in to a good ten minutes per person. From there the circle can go around in seating order.
It is a nice idea to acquire an object of sorts to use as a ‘talking stick’. This can be ceremoniously introduced in the first circle and the same object used weekly. This encourages only one person talking at a time, as only the individual holding the ‘stick’ may speak.
The content of the sharing can be very general or more specific. For example, each person can express how they are feeling at that moment, what’s going on in their lives in general and how they are feeling about it. A sharing with children could be more guided and specific such as each child identifying an animal or colour that they are feeling like. A staff sharing could be about how everyone feels about a specific project or event.
Whatever the content, the commonality is that the space has been created for people to be open and honest without fear of judgment. For people to take the time to identify how they are feeling and express it in a safe, contained environment.
3) Once again the focaliser will lead the Closure of the Sharing Circle. The purpose is to round off the sharing, sealing it so that it remains sacred and protected. The closure could be similar to the Attunement or it could be a short prayer or meditation.
An example of a Closure is as follow:
- Everyone holds hands and closes their eyes
- Take a deep breath in and out
- The focaliser expresses gratitude for the sharing
- The focaliser affirms the confidentiality of everything that was expressed during the sharing
- The focaliser gives an affirmation or prayer for the day
- Pass around a squeeze, drop hands and open eyes
Every Sharing Circle will be unique but what is special is the sense of ritual that is created within the space. Although it might feel strange and unfamiliar at first, once you get a feel for it and get into the rhythm you will feel much more comfortable and will really appreciate the importance of creating such sacred spaces.
Why are Sharing Circles so important? We are social beings who live amongst each other and interact through various forms of communication. However, we are never really taught how to communicate. How to express what we feel and think and how to really listen to what others are saying. How many conflicts, misunderstandings and feelings of loneliness and isolation could be avoided if only we could begin to open up and communicate clearly? Sharing Circles are a simple and yet profoundly powerful tool which can initiate the journey towards clear, confident and fluid communication.
The first very important benefit of Sharing Circles is that they encourage one to go inwards. In order to express how one is feeling one first has to know how one is feeling.
After one has identified how they are feeling, this has to be expressed to the group. This can be challenging for many people but once overcome it can be an incredibly therapeutic experience and facilitate much personal understanding and growth.
Besides for encouraging one to identify and express oneself, Sharing Circles are important because they teach us how to listen, to really listen. Without interrupting, one has to listen to each member of the group, consciously not judging them. Listening with an open heart rather than a criticizing mind.
Sharing Circles can be a place of incredible growth and learning about oneself, other people and the world around us. Confidence and self-esteem will be raised through the constant affirming of ones feelings and thoughts. By hearing where people are at and how they are feeling, it also encourages us to be less judgmental and more understanding of others.
By connecting more with oneself and each other, an increased sense of belongingness will develop. Sharing Circles can facilitate this process by creating a platform to develop strong and healthy individuals and relationships built on trust and acceptance.