When my son was four years old he looked up from his breakfast cereal and asked me, “Hey mom, what does a therapy machine look like anyway?” Clearly his dad’s world of work was clearer to him, involving tractors, combines, spray coups, semi-trucks and four-wheelers. Mom going to work each day to do therapy, pretty unclear and here he was curious and listening with his eyes and ears as only four year olds can. So I answered him. I said, “I sit in circles with people and we try to tell the truth.” A few nods and chews later he said, “Well, that doesn’t sound too hard to do.”
What I love most about this story is his thoughtful considering and his confidence in his truth telling skills. Also his feet that didn’t yet touch the floor under the round kitchen table, swinging free and bare, pink and rhythmic.
My answer too, made sense to me and helped me think about my work as a therapist more deeply, which is often the same as more simply. I am honored to sit in these circles, to listen and witness and believe in something so organic and human and technologically primitive, involving as it does, ten chairs, a room with a door and our willingness to be present with each other, to each take a turn sharing, and many turns listening. Simple, not easy.
“Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein
As I get older I continue to live much of my life in circles, not just in my work, but in the other parts of my life too. I crave circles, I create circles, I say yes when invited to circle with others, around common reading, a bon fire, a dinner table, a strategy making, or manuscript editing table at the library or coffee shop.
Yes to eye contact, story telling, obstacle blasting, dreaming, and toasting. Yes to real whipped cream on strawberries and all the verses of Good Night Irene, which we will have to make up as we go of course. And yes to the hope that is generated by joining together to talk even about our hopelessness.
Yes to the cries of “Me too!” that heal like no other tonic. And yes because we can not solve problems that we won’t discuss. Once silence is broken in a circle, we stay awake and go to work. It’s what humans do. And we do it best together.
So from circling comes good works, it is just what happens when we get together and tell the truth. Good comes of it, good works, good conversation, good friends, good food, good laughter. As Mary Pipher in her new book, The Green Boat says, “Healthy happy adults are engaged in good works of some kind and nothing good and beautiful lasts unless it is grounded in loving, interconnected relationships.”
The good news: we can’t do it alone and we don’t have to. We just have to join in, say yes, take a chair, share and listen. From here together we will act for good, for sure and every time. It’s human nature, not a machine, but more reliable just as fun.
Starting in September, join Carol once a month as she leads a circle entitled: “MINDFUL WRITING WISDOM CIRCLE.” It’s a writing group, a journaling group, a mindfulness group, and a spiritual development group. We will be led by the book, The Pen and the Bell.