ARTICLES & STORIES
Commitment... Action... Providence at the '99 Parliament
by Peggy Sebera, M. S. (October 2003)
"....the moment one commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred...." ~W. H. Murray
The Act of Commitment
At the closing of the Assembly of Leaders, at the Parliament of World's Religions in 1999, in South Africa, members present were asked to commit to one specific action that they would take when they returned home. As I (an assembly leader in the area of business) sat with other leaders from many walks of life, I knew that I would naturally connect with some, but there was something so compelling about this request to write down and tell others what this one specific action would be. The microphone was passed around the room, as we listened to the most magnificent and large scale actions that you can imagine. My own commitment was small, it seemed.....I committed to the members of my table group that I would volunteer my skills as an organizational development consultant to advance the goals of some of the leaders that I had met at the Parliament of World's Religions. I took this commitment seriously.
Connecting with this Commitment
When I returned home, I sat alone at my desk, searching through papers for the names of people that I had met. I sent several emails. There was a response from two particular leaders from the Assembly of Leaders: Elinore Detiger (of The Victorian Trust, Scotland) and Elly Pradervand (Women's World Summit Foundation, Geneva). I had met these two leaders when a friend, Ronita Johnson, and I had provided a workshop at the Parliament, earlier that week. The title of our workshop was also the title of the documentary film which we showed, Becoming, Women's Circles, Women's Lives. The film (produced by our circle friends, Sarita Chawla and Stephanie Ryan) demonstrated the power of dialogue between the members of our own circle of 10 women. Mrs. Detiger and Mrs. Pradervand, like others in the workshop, passionately responded to the circle format as a methodology which allowed all members of a group to be equally heard and equally supported in their speaking and leadership.
Elly Pradervand invited me to Geneva to consider how to take Circle Methodology to the NGO's (Non-governmental organizations). While there, Elly, Judith Ofori of Ghana, and I brainstormed this idea. We were inspired by Jean Bolen's book (The Millionth Circle, which explains what a sacred circle is). We considered the "Millionth Circle Summit" as a theme to recommend to the planners of the next UN World Conference on the Status of Women (a follow-up to the UN Bejing Women's Conference).
Dreaming the Dream
Imagine if we were to introduce circle methods for meeting together, in international settings, rather than using the hierarchical meeting format of presenters and listeners sitting yards apart in huge rooms, which dominate all of the large scale meetings of NGO's, the UN, and other leadership forums in the world? Although circles have been used in many important world-wide gatherings (such as the Assembly of Leaders at the Parliament) they are relatively unknown in the UN arena, and in most governing bodies.
We felt passionately, that the arena for dialogue.....the arena for listening..... needed to become more commonplace among leaders who promote World Peace.
My commitment to action at the Parliament was taking form, with others.... I felt compelled to join with Elly in her vision about the NGO assemblies, and for me, it was important to share the joy that I have known in being in a woman's circle. I felt catalyzed to invite others to join us to create the possibility for the Millionth Circle Initiative.
In 2001, Peggy Sebera, Elly Pradervand, Elinore Detiger, Sarita Chawla, Ronita Johnson, Leslie Lanes, and Jean Bolen (author of the book The Millionth Circle, which inspired the name of the initiative), took responsibility for gathering 20 women together in California to launch The Millionth Circle Initiative. These women all had written books and articles about Circles or had professionally initiated circles of dialogue. There were at least two intentions: 1. influencing the methods used for convening NGO meetings and 2. the seeding, nurturing, and connecting of women's circles with a sacred center - world wide. After two meetings of the MC, and now with the help of 40 women, we created a Convener's Circle which is the consensus-based, all volunteer, governing group of the MC. We communicate daily on-line, monthly on conference calls and yearly in gatherings that we call "The Deepening Gatherings". This powerful and successful volunteer initiative, which quickly grew in numbers, has led to the connection of women's circles around the world."
The Universality of Circles
Of course, we realize that thousands of women and men have spent their lives forwarding the collaborative and consensus-based processes and rituals which form the foundation of circle work in organizational development, personal development, learning communities and indigenous communities everywhere. We honor all such leaders who have shown us the way and taught us these principles. We honor our ancestors.
How the work has moved around the world
Since March 2001, with the assistance of Elinore Detiger, hundreds of women leaders have attended Millionth Circle Events in the US, England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, Spain, Geneva, and Findhorn Community in Scotland.
- Imagine, for example, sitting in a circle with 70 women leaders from 40 countries on an island in Scotland for 6 days - honoring the multitude of gifts and practices - honoring, as well as possible, the cultural diversity present.
- Imagine, studying Spanish in order to prepare for co-facilitating a bi-lingual circle in Costa Rica with Elena Oliva and Floria Herrero (read more about Costa Rica). Imagine some of the awkward learning moments integrating intercultural aspects when meeting in circle for the first time with women farm workers, artists, social workers, women from Guatamala, Peru, and Spain. All of these women came trusting the sacred aspect of circle and slowly learn to co-create new processes for sharing their lives and celebrating through indigenous ceremony.
- Imagine coming together at Findhorn Community with 40 women learning to facilitate cross-cultural circles. Imagine encountering a conflict regarding video taping that led us to practice dynamic methods of conflict resolution, which honored all the voices, from all of the countries. The time that such group processes take can be frustrating for some and worthwhile to others. So many different needs.
I wish that I could name all of the many women who have taken responsibility for moving the MC out into the world. I can see so many of them in my mind. Out of each of these larger circles, additional circles have grown in urban and indigenous communities. There are as many methods as there are women. Each woman in the Millionth Circle is a passionate spiritual pilgrim, dedicated to assisting others to experience their connection to all other living beings.
We are learning
During the time we have worked together in circle (often on circle conference calls together) we have learned a lot, inter-culturally, moving through the victories and the challenges of collaborative work. We have sometimes succeeded and sometimes stumbled, but we have learned in each situation. We have learned and practiced methods for including everyone, and practiced methods for dealing with our own personal conflicts and shadows. We have deepened our understanding of the predictable challenges which groups face and we have learned to keep moving. We find the circle method effective in providing for the continuous opportunity to transform individual and group challenges into shared and visible learning for all involved.
The Millionth Circle in larger public arenas
- United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, March 2002 Non-denominational Circles with a Sacred Center were offered as workshops at the March 2002 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Also, Ann Smith of Global Education Associates, presented a paper regarding the Millionth Circle to the General Assembly. The Millionth Circle had one of the largest NGO delegations attending this conference; our presence, with sacred circles, was heard and felt throughout.
- Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, Oct. 2002 Jean Bolen, Ann Smith, and Peggy Sebera joined sponsor, Elly Pradervand of the Women's World Summit Foundation to present a workshop on Circles of Compassion at the Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders.
- Circles of Compassion Training: Geneva, Oct. 2003 In Geneva, Elly Pradervand (Women's World Summit Foundation) and Pierre Pradervand (Vivre Autrement) in partnership with the Millionth Circle (Peggy Sebera and Leslie Lanes) and Findhorn Foundation (May East) are initiating a training program entitled Circles of Compassion. These circles assist men and women from around the world to initiate Circles of Compassion to discuss the UN Development Goals in their own communities.
- Gather the Women Congress, Oct. 2003 With leadership from Jean Bolen, Joan Kenley (Pathways to Peace) and Penny McManigal (art project Weaving the Dream), the Millionth Circle members are participating with 20 other women's organizations in San Francisco, California in an event entitled "Gather the Women Congress". At this gathering MC members are introducing the idea of Sacred Circle as a means of meeting and working together to make plans for action in the world.
- Fifth World Conference on Women, 2007 Angela Weber, attending the Gather The Women Congress in Oct, 2003, is bringing formal invitations from her government to host the Fifth World Conference on Women in Salvador, Brazil, 2007. With the help of May East of Brazil (leader in the UN Eco-Village Project) and Angela Weber, the Millionth Circle is working to bring Circle Methodology as an integral part of this substantial future gathering
- PEACE X PEACE PEACE X PEACE, a US based, non-profit, was born out of a strong belief in the vision of the Millionth Circle Initiative to seed, nurture, and connect women circles. PEACE X PEACE Global Network (Ann Smith) connects women's circles in the United States, one-on-one through the Internet with women's circles elsewhere in the world, so that they can come to know each other directly and personally. The service is free and made easy with staff to help ever step of the way. www.peacexpeace.org
Commitment in Partnership
Much has grown out of each woman's personal commitment and action - Commitments which carry continuous passion and know-how regarding the value of shared leadership and circle methodology. We have partnered with each other, organically, to bring the value of Sacred Circles, Dialogue, and Deep Listening to others. My friend and elder, Anne Dosher, often says that "in the circle we listen each other into BEING". We believe that The Millionth Circle is helping to give birth to a feminine form of the expression of Spirit and Leadership. (Click here to go to original story and more photos)