Welcome to Year Four
Posted by Rev Lucy
Posted on October 5, 2017
Deep Sharing and Respectful Listening is the Essence of Spiritual Deepening Circles
Welcome to new and returning circle participants. I am delighted to kick off year four of our spiritual deepening circles. This year we have seven circles with more than 80 people participating. This is the first of my monthly posts that introduce our theme. On our website you will also find the curriculum and supplemental readings for the month. I always appreciate your feedback and comments.
This year I feel that the circles are more important than ever. In our fragmented world the simple act of being with others, listening deeply, sharing stories and exploring spirituality is radical and transformational. I hope that you will find spiritual sustenance in your time in the circle this year.
The theme for the circles in October is “welcome”. You will introduce yourselves to each other, review and discuss our covenant, and explore the power of deep listening. At the second meeting, your facilitators will share a reading from the book, “A Hidden Wholeness” by Parker Palmer, a well- known Quaker and spiritual leader. The format of our circles is taken from Palmer’s approach with “no fixing, no advising, no setting each other straight.” We also refrain from asking questions or commenting on what someone has said, except in relation to our own experience. Palmer calls this way of being together “counter cultural” and says that is requires a “clear explanation, steady practice and the gentle but firm enforcement by a facilitator who can keep us from reverting to business as usual.” One of your supplemental readings is a chapter from this book.
In the past three years we have learned a lot about the experience of deep sharing and respectful listening. At first many participants are uncomfortable and felt stifled. Some people cannot get comfortable with the process and choose to leave the circles at the end of the first month. But for those who stay the experience of the circle was transformational. At the final evaluation I ask people what they had gained from their experience with sharing and listening for eight months. “The process made me less judgmental,” or “less negative.” “I learned I was not alone in my difficulties.” Others said, “the circle helped me to be more self-reflective”, “I opened to gratitude and faith”, and “my concept of spirituality grew.” My wish for you is that you can write something similar on your evaluation next May.
I will hold all of you in my heart this month as you begin your journey together. Each month I will share some thoughts with you and post the curriculum for the month. Come to our website uuss.org/circles and check out the materials there. Please share your comments, suggestion for readings, or ideas. I look forward to this year or discovery and deepening together.
also check out these Ted talks on listening: