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Circle As Worldview

Updated: Apr 28

Learning #1

“the Talking Piece always comes back around”

by: emily


I love the use of metaphor. My mentor, Jondou Chase Chen, has taught me how metaphors can be useful to understand our lived situations; developing a metaphor can help us see the fullness of a situation as well as the texture and nuance. It helps us access or discover deeper meaning. It helps us learn lessons. It helps us understand the “here and now” of the situation, as well as the “what next?” Metaphor helps us imagine something new or different.


In her trainings, Kay Pranis, a national leader in restorative justice specializing in peacemaking Circles, talks about the Worldview of the Circle and asks the question: What are the beliefs of the Circle? As we sit in Circle and practice and practice and practice, the lessons and beliefs of the Circle slowly emerge. I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned about the Worldview of Circle and what those beliefs might be. The Circle is a powerful metaphor for understanding some very deep lessons of life.


When people first sit in Circle, some let out a breath of relief. The predictability of how the Talking Piece moves through the space eases the strategic tracking of dynamics to figure out how and when to “pipe up.”


For many others, however, the process can initially be anxiety-provoking! We often hear things like, “what if I forget what I want to say?” or “what if I talk too long?” Those of us who have been grew up learning a ping-pong conversation style sometimes have trouble adjusting to the different style and tempo of the Talking Piece. The more we practice, the more we embody this new way of communication. We begin to take the Circle outside of the Circle; we use the Talking Piece even when there is no literal Talking Piece, when others might not have experience using a Talking Piece, or sometimes even when having internal dialogue!


Once we keep practicing and embodying this way, it became very freeing! The structure of using the Talking Piece allows us to relax into listening. It releases us from the game of trying to figure out when it’s our turn to speak and how we might “butt in” to get our voice heard. We know that the Talking Piece will eventually come around, so we can be patient with the moment. We can listen deeply.


Also, once we practice, we begin to relax into the process of speaking our piece. I don’t feel the need to say everything, because I understand that the Talking Piece will come back around. And, even more powerful, I don’t need to worry about “forgetting” what I want to say, because the Talking Piece always comes back around. I don’t have to be “perfect” in this moment.


As we practice even more, we begin to understand that there actually isn’t really even the concept of “forgetting!” When we are truly living in the present moment, there isn’t mulling over what we wanted to say 3 minutes ago or what we want to say 3 minutes from now. When the Talking Piece is in our hand, if we are truly connected to the moment; what will be said is what is meant to be said.


On the off chance that we pass the Talking Piece and “forget” to say something, there is great peace in knowing that the Talking Piece will come back around. In this practice, we begin to understand that in a larger sense, no conversation is ever finished. So maybe, if ‘that one thought’ is important enough, it will emerge later on in the Circle. But, as a metaphor, the Talking Piece is always coming back around, so there will be a subsequent Circle – another conversation – where that thought will be invited to emerge.


When we build with people who embody this way with each other, we know that no conversation will ever be finished. Every conversation is ongoing.


So as we continue to practice, the metaphor of the Circle becomes more salient and clear. Circle moves in cycles: the Talking Piece goes around and around, and around again. There is always another chance, to learn, to make amends, to speak what needs to be said. The Talking Piece always comes back around.


Post-script: Another side of this coin is Karma… what goes around comes around!

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