When we gather in Circle we work to create a safe space for discussion in order to improve relationships and build community. The practice of Circle-keeping is rooted in the tradition of talking Circles that Indigenous peoples have used for millennia. As we continue to build "capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect" (as stated in Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Call to Action #63) we honour the important history of Restorative Justice and continue working to build authentic relationships with the Indigenous peoples of our land.
We understand Circle as a process which "is based on an assumption of equal worth and dignity for all participants and therefore provides equal voice to all participants. Using a circle process is not simply a matter of putting chairs in a circle. Careful preparation is essential to good practice in using circles” (Pranis, The Circle Keeper’s Handbook).
Circles help people establish and share core values. Clarifying these core values will provide opportunity for guidelines to be created. These guidelines help to ensure a safe space in which people feel open to share their thoughts and feelings. Most Circles use a talking piece to ensure that every voice is heard.
The centerpiece of a Circle should be symbolic of the group or the Circle topic. It is usually placed on the floor in the centre of the Circle and can include a cloth or mat as the base. Centrepieces will also include various items that represent the group's core values (i.e. plants, meaningful trinkets, particular books, purposefully chosen crystals or stones, drawings, sculptures, toys, poems, etc.).
By thoughtfully preparing a centrepiece, we provide a focal point for participants. It becomes a place for folks to rest their eyes and helps to keep the group engaged with each other and the Circle. The centrepiece can help to support participants in speaking and listening from the heart.
Participants of Circle are encouraged to develop Circle guidelines together in the context of that particular Circle. These guidelines can serve as a reminder to those in Circle of their agreement to honour each other. Some examples of guidelines include:
Honour the talking piece
You can choose to pass
Speak from the heart
Listen to understand
Trust that you will know what to say
Soft eyes, turned to wonder
In Circle, the talking piece moderates the discussion as it is passed from person to person. When received, each participant can hold it as they speak, take time of silence, or pass it on if they do not wish to share. A talking piece can be an object of importance for the group or circle facilitator or it can be a symbol of the Circle topic. The person who chooses the talking piece is encouraged to share the story of its significance to build appreciation and respect.
We use themes and related questions in Circle as a way to encourage conversation and idea-sharing. It is important to develop open-ended questions that don't have a right or wrong answer so we can inspire open dialogue. This dialogue is meant to bring Circle participants beyond surface-level responses into an open and honest discussion.