What is your circle’s purpose? Does it need a purpose? Yes, it does. Can you just want to get together, sit in a circle, and chat with your women friends? Of course you can, however, it’s best to find an empty table at a coffee shop or have lunch to catch up with your friends. If you are inviting women to join you in circle for a specific reason comes with the safety net of intention and guidelines.
Many years ago, the first photo I saw from Deborah Zaher was of her circle in Liverpool that was talking about violence against women in their community. In the center were self portraits the women had created on cards. Artist Clare Campbell had created a body of work about women, many of them painful, and many of them strong. (Photo upper right.) When I met Deborah in England, she gave me a set of those cards. It’s been several years, but I believe the intention of the circle and the art was to bring attention to violence against women in their city. It worked, and it had an impact on a woman all the way across the world in Alaska.
The Gather the Women website has information on setting the intention for your circle. I’m going to use the section in “Calling the Circle” by Christina Baldwin, as well as some personal anecdotes. Why are you inviting women to gather, specifically in a circle? First of all, sitting in a circle is an ancient way of meeting. There is a responsibility to understand the dynamics of circle and the principles. Second, you need an intention that you can explain. Here (upper left) is a photo of a circle we had in Juneau several years ago. Our intention was to raise awareness of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunns’s book “Half the Sky”. We created cards for Women for Women International and enclosed donations. (Photo upper left.)
“Intentional circling” is what Christina calls this. Here’s a quote from the book by Ann Linnea: “A circle has specific purpose, focused task, tangible work, and a tangible results. We know why we are here. We can tell, by the nature of our agreements, how to behave. We can figure out how to fit our skills into the overall process and task at hand. We can measure accomplishment. We can tell who our community is by who supports and helps us. We can see the spiritual core by how ritual is shared, how thanks are offered, how we tend each other’s vulnerabilities.”
Calling a circle is a responsibility, but it is also such a gift to be able to bring people together to have conversations that spring from the intention to matter.