One of the most ancient and universal symbols, the circle is
used to express unity and wholeness. Our ancestors gathered in
circles around the fire to tell stories, solve problems, seek the
common good and celebrate the joys of life. Today, small groups
that meet in circle-like formation are gaining popularity —
particularly self-support groups, or wisdom circles.
A wisdom circle comprises a group of people who have decided
to gather together to speak on a topic of great value and interest
to them. The circle is a place of safety, where we can speak what
is really in our heart and know that we will be respected. Within
a wisdom circle, no one is interrupted, ridiculed or bullied. We
don’t give advice or exchange dialog. We face each other
in trust and appreciation, creating a safe, sacred space where
we are all encouraged to listen to the “still, small voice
One of the things that makes a wisdom circle different from an
everyday discussion is the Native American custom of a “talking
stick,” or talking object. The talking object is placed in
the center of the circle. When we wish to speak, we go to the center
of the circle and pick up the object. Only the person who is holding
the object may speak. Most importantly, he or she must speak from
The rest of the group is attentive and engages in active listening.
When the speaker finishes talking, the object is replaced in the
center of the circle for the next person. Alternatively, some groups
simply pass the talking object from one member of the group to
another. The actual purpose of the talking object is to focus our
attention on listening to the individual who is speaking. In everyday
conversations, our minds are easily distracted when someone else
is speaking — often we are busy thinking of a response.
Often a wisdom circle begins with a few moments of silence to
center us. Silence is refreshing and healing and it helps us tune
in to our inner guidance. In addition, we establish and maintain
a code of confidentiality within our wisdom circle, so we are all
comfortable expressing ourselves freely.
The guidelines are simple and supportive:
- Only the person holding the talking object speaks
- We speak honestly from the heart
- We listen patiently and empathically
- We allow and respect silence
- We keep personal information confidential
With these guidelines in mind, the wisdom circle is a powerful
tool for our personal and spiritual growth.