Leadership in most spiritual circles is shared in some way, with different members leading under different circumstances or for various responsibilities. Whether you find yourself acting as leader for years or for moments, when you’re leading a spiritual circle, it’s up to you to provide the circle with a living example of integrity.
More than any other skills, the following are essential for healthy circle leadership:
♦ Deep respect for free will and the rightness of all beings.
♦ The practice of being fully honest with yourself and others regarding your motivations and intentions.
♦ Making the choice to be wise in all that you do.
♦ Taking on the challenge of living your human life with the full love, compassion, wisdom, and vision of Goddess/God.
♦ The ability to temporarily set aside personal issues and struggles and attend to the good of the circle.
♦ The ability to communicate in ways that build bridges of understanding.
The roles of leadership in a circle can range from highly structured to relaxed and fluid. They usually includes the following activities:
Setting the Tone
Celebrating life is the stuff of joy for our human hearts and every thriving circle makes sure there’s a lot of this going on.
Our hearts sing when we’re feeling vibrantly alive, free to create/move in whatever ways we choose, and we’re sharing profound love. Rituals, ceremonies, healing circles, teaching circles, and even conflict resolution can be very effective and respectful while including lots of laughter and playfulness. A goal that’s important to include in every circle gathering is to send folks home excited about the next gathering.
Each gathering needs focus. The focus can change each time, it can evolve from one gathering to the next, it can dance from one thing to another during the gathering. Within all of those options, the focus needs to be something that inspires the people in the circle and it needs to be expressed in ways that allow everyone to actively participate.
Some basic principles of right relationship, established as foundations of the circle, will go a long way toward preventing the kinds of challenges that damage relationships and destroy circles. These principles are:
♦ Each person lives their own truth and does not try to impose that truth on anyone else.
♦ Each person is right within the context of her/his own life.
♦ Each person in the circle chooses to have a positive impact in the life of each person in the circle.
Keeping Members Connected
This is the logistics of keeping the circle alive. It includes planning dates, times, locations and leadership for gatherings; creating a way for circlemates to contact each other, and sending out reminders about gatherings.
It can also include letting circlemates know when something needs attention. This could be about declining participation, requests for special gatherings or healing energy, welcomes to new members, etc.
Wide-open hearts, truth speaking, and unconditional support for everyone finding their place of peace are the things that will restore harmony when a struggle has evolved within a circle.
A great tool for supporting this is the talking circle, using a talking stick. The basic guidelines for a healthy, productive talking circle are:
♦ The talking stick is held by whoever is currently speaking.
♦ Only the person holding the stick speaks.
♦ All speaking is listened to fully.
♦ All speakers use “I” statements and speak as concisely as they can.
♦ When a speaker is finished, the stick is passed to whoever wants to speak next.
This process can include the entire circle, the members in struggle and the elders, or some other combination of members that includes a wise and assertive facilitator who can keep a level head. Unless struggling members have already chosen to leave the circle, it’s important to include all parties to the conflict in all talking circles focused on their challenge. This supports each member in feeling respected, loved, and heard. It also cuts down on gossip, misinformation, distrust, and lack of awareness.
During this type of talking circle, it’s a good idea to provide a space for emotions to be released when needed. This needs to be a private space, away from the view or hearing range of the circle. Provide an empty basket or other container which will receive the emotions needing release, and smudging materials to be used before re-entering the circle. Participants should silently leave the talking circle whenever needed and return when they’re feeling centered again.
See also: Growing Vibrant Local Spiritual Circles
Laughing Womyn Ashonosheni is a Wisdom Teacher, Shaman & Healer who helps Millennials, GenX’ers & Baby Boomers live in ways they find to be delightful. You can see more about her work at LaughingWomyn.com