The first Circle of the Heart was quite an intense happening. 23 people followed my Invitation and were willing to experiment – an experiment that was to show all of us what “authentic community” really means.
My account of what happened during the first Circle can only be a general one. If you would like to know what it is like to commit yourself to be part of such a circle for 10 to 12 hours I can only recommend you participate in of one of the next Circles of the Heart (October, 23rd & December 3rd 2006).
During a Circle of the Heart a very natural process unfolds (a process that has much similarity to what happens in a personal meditation). In its first phase, the “pseudo-” or “clichÃ©-phase“, in which the Living Field is still incoherent, we are convinced to be isolated from each other and the world. The group – in the beginning – acts as if it follows these rules: “Don’t say or do anything that could hurt someone. If somebody says anything that irritates or annoys you, act as if nothing has happened or as if it hasn’t really touched you. If differences of opinions arise, change the topic.” The purpose of these rules is to minimize differences between people or to ignore them, and not to get too close to others. To follow these rules curbs truthfulness and honesty. People speak in generalities, and let others get away with it.
As soon as the group understands that it is following these rules it drops them since they are experienced as being debasing, and thus individual differences cannot be ignored anymore. The group enters the second phase; it stumbles into confusion and reacts with fight or flight, with struggling or trying to escape. (The confusion seems to result from the awareness of being separated from others and the world, so one has to assert oneself and defend ones positions and opinions. In confusion one strives only to create a better constellation or “version” of already known forces and situations – a willingness to authentically change would put the foundation of ones security and safety at risk.)
The struggle is characterized by continually trying to convince and persuade, to convert and heal others from “wrong” points of view, and give then “good advice”. The whole struggle and strive is aimed at obliterating differences and winning others over to ones own position. In doing this the group doesn’t think of itself as struggling or fighting, rather – with “the best of intentions” – people want to help others… but they do so by means (like persuasion, conversion, healing, good advice, etc.) that don’t work.
When the group doesn’t struggle it looks for a way to escape from this confusion of separation. This “escapism” has many faces, among others the desire to control, to organise things; the groups looks for leaders, some people go for ostentatious independence, try to forge alliances with their partner or others in the group; they play question and answer games or make joking comments on what goes on. A new attempt to escape confusion – I call it ‘self–realisation’ – occurred when a member of the group (and then a few others) said, “I feel good when I express myself; I realize myself by doing so, that makes me feel wonderful.” These individual’s delight turned the rest of the group into a passive audience of their self-realization-alliance.
This confusion (which seems to be a good representation of the state of affairs of our civilisation) is based on fight and flight in its widest meaning. Both reactions are based essentially on preconceptions and judgements, on expectations and hopes or fears, following the adagio, “I am different from you, a unique and therefore isolated individual that is not one with you and the world. In essence I am totally alone.” The hope is, of course, that someone – a hero, teacher or master – or some happening – an illumination or insight – will allow one to escape from confusion, and the fear is that it will not happen (although one isn’t much aware of both tendencies in general).
By struggling and trying to escape one only manages to avoid the next step… a very uncomfortable step into the unknown.
When the group (or in private meditation the person) understands and acknowledges that it cannot satisfactorily organise chaos or transcend it by fight and flight, and that everything it has done so far has led it only into dead alleys – not being able to achieve some sense of “authentic community” (or “authentic self”) – all doors close on the group. As a consequence more and more members of the group are willing to acknowledge their failure, and they start to confess their feelings in this regard.
Now the third phase has begun, which can only be characterized as letting go. Because the “old ways” obviously don’t work there is nothing one can do but to give up ones ideas, possibilities and everything one thinks and holds dear. Into the silences that are now much more frequent than in previous phases, and intense rather than awkward, people speak of their true feelings; they say how they feel right now. They speak about their failures and their inability to do something about it. The group faces the facts…
And it looks as if the group has entered mourning – similar with the sorrows one experiences when separating from a partner that one does still hold very dear but with whom one simply cannot live and be together anymore. If the group is open to this grief, its helplessness and the pain it feels in this situation, without any other comfort than listening compassionately and without comment to each other – if the group can stand this uncertainty without trying to fix or heal it, if it can stand this emptiness without trying to fill it with the ways and means of confusion, if it goes willingly into this darkness…
… by and by other voices sound out of the silence, “It is wonderful to just sit here and listen. I feel held and carried.” “I feel a delightful peace.” “There is a deep silence and openness inside.” In the fourth phase it slowly becomes apparent to all – authentic community. (In meditation one could call this phase ‘authentic self’.) In this We the individuality isn’t dissolved but rather embedded in a new context. Somebody maybe says, “It appears as if we are one body with many heads and arms and legs…” Or, “I can feel you inside me.”
The Living Field is now coherent, and one can feel that one is part, or better still: an organ of a greater, living whole; one feels to be embedded in it. And it is clear to everyone that this unity was not created but rather the group has stumbled upon what is already there, “It is as if the hand becomes aware that it belongs to the body. All it let go of was the conviction that it is something special/separate.” People speak of the unconditional love they feel, of a free and open space in which everything and everyone can be as they really are, of a deep feeling of fulfillment, of the endless richness of being related. The unity in the midst of diversity comes to the foreground, and is celebrated times and again with a rich and beautiful shared silence.
This phase can without exaggeration be called hieros gamos (divine marriage), and due to its fecundity it leads quite naturally to the fourth phase, the phase of inspiration. It is indeed inspiring to listen to the living unity, to the authentic We. “How does it want to express itself? What does it tell me/us? What does it want to show me/us? How is it manifesting itself in life?” We can get a sense of seeds of our ‘future’ coming into being. We listen for what wants to realize and manifest in the manifold, diverse life: ways maybe that give meaning to our life, because we now have a heartfelt intuition for how to serve the Greater Whole – out of the living unity come occasions how to co-create the True, Beautiful and Good.
The experience is deep, powerful and clear – if we listen to the living unity that we now feelingly belong to we can again, and maybe for the first time really, use what in the confusion-phase only served our isolation, and the glorification of our self and our own point of view. Now the purpose of organization is not to hold chaos at bay anymore but it serves the development and unfolding of all beings (whatever they may be). Now different views serve our mutual enhancement and the widening of our horizon instead of restriction and segregation. The hierarchical pecking order gives way to a holarchy where greater talents, abilities or skills do not support the rule of one over the other anymore but rather they help everyone to unfold within the frame of his or her possibilities, serving the integration of the entire spiral of life’s evolution. The wish for control and the will of separate persons and their interests gives way to the desire to follow the tendencies of the “coherent, living field”.
This can lead into the fifth phase of crystallisation in which talents and resources group themselves around the seeds planted in the fourth phase, like atoms assembling around a crystal. This phase unfolds only when the group (or the person in meditation) wishes to create something concrete – a project, a company, an organisation, a prototype or a process. This flows into the sixth phase of feed-back in which the new (a project, etc.) opens to what “the universe” or the context has to add or say. And the seventh phase finally is that of manifestation or realisation.
Because the first prototype of the Circle of the Heart (which itself is now in its sixth phase in this process) last Wednesday was not aimed at creating something in this manner I want to leave it to further experience which factors and developments are paramount in these phases. It seems obvious, though, that they differ from the former in that they need much more time to fully develop, thus probably being infused with more “Mini-Circles” (phases 1 – 4) that we have discussed more in depth here.
Finally I would like to communicate a few notes I’ve made during the first Circle of the Heart.
- In all phases I follow the process itself; no matter what I have already experienced and what I know about it, I let it go and listen to the phenomena as they unfold.
- Time and again I’m surprised and delighted by the effectiveness and precision by which the process itself navigates us through these phases. In the second phase I just reported a few times to the group which of the seeming ways out are actually not so, and this only after the group has sufficiently tried these ways and landed in a blind alley… I only speak after they’ve actually experienced this, and serve the group by pointing out what they already know. (I highlight the obvious. And it was helpful to set times in which I was allowed to “intervene” next – for instance at 3 o’clock and then again at 3:45.)
- In the first phase it was helpful for the group to be told the “rules of artificial community” (see phase 1).
- In the end of the third, beginning of the fourth phase it was helpful to say that it pained me to see how when somebody showed “a broken heart” others tried to heal or comfort them.