by Barbara Belknap
One of the things I have learned since I started holding gatherings in circle is that as the convener I need to do the math. If I have 20 women and each one speaks for 5 minutes that is an hour and 40 minutes. If two women in the circle talk for 15 minutes, that puts us at two hours. You get the picture. Before you know it, you have to start seeing where to trim the day’s agenda. We always read the circle guidelines at the beginning.
What my circle partner, Darcy, and I also say at the start and when needed is: “In order to honor our time – we have until X:00 for this circle – and give everyone an opportunity to share, let’s keep our comments to xxx minutes.”
Darcy or I take on the role of Guardian and ring the bell for a pause as a gentle reminder of the guidelines. If I do not use a Guardian, then I, as the convener, can ring the bell and ask for a pause, or anyone can ask for a pause. Being in circle can be very emotional, and some people feel so safe they begin to share and lose track of time. A gentle ring of the bell and reminder of the time brings the circle back into intention.
In a more relaxed informal circle gathering, time is usually not a limiting factor as long as everyone gets an opportunity to share and does so with what Christina Baldwin calls “responsibility for the quality of the experience”.
Using a talking piece is also a way to honor time and to discourage “cross-talk”, but it helps to set the intention (parameters) by reading the guidelines and being clear about time so everyone knows.