Circles of Trust

DSC03598Circles of Trust are described by Parker Palmer in his book “A Hidden Wholeness” and, briefly, in this online article Sitting in Circles:

Circles of Trust “are a rare form of community–one that supports rather than supplants the individual quest for integrity-that is rooted in two basic beliefs. First, we all have an inner teacher whose guidance is more reliable than anything we can get from a doctrine, ideology, collective belief system, institution, or leader. Second, we all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us discern the inner teacher’s voice for at least three reasons:

  • The journey toward inner truth is too taxing to be made solo: lacking support, the solitary traveler soon becomes weary or fearful and is likely to quit the road.
  • The path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company: finding our way involves clues that are subtle and sometimes misleading, requiring the kind of discernment that can happen only in dialogue.
  • The destination is too daunting to be achieved alone: we need community to find the courage to venture into the alien lands to which the inner teacher may call us.

If we want to renew ourselves and our world, we need more and more circles of this sort, where people who work in a large corporation can acknowledge the secret hidden in plain sight; where a conflicted farmer-turned-bureaucrat can remember that he reports to the land; where a person wounded by racism can take a step toward healing. We need more and more circles from which we can return to the world less divided and more connected to our own souls.

The circles described in this chapter ranged from ten to thirty people. But a circle of trust is not defined by numbers; it is defined by the nature of the space it creates between us. Diana Chapman Walsh, president of Wellesley College, a leader whose integrity I deeply admire, has written about the small-scale “circles” she convenes to maintain her sense of wholeness in a complex and stressful job: “I…come together…with people who bring out my better self, friends with whom I can be…authentic…. I make it a point to connect, whenever possible, with [people] with whom I have a history of shared joy and shared forth in me this feeling of safety.”

A circle of trust can form wherever two or three are gathered–as long those two or three know how to create and protect a space for the soul.”

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