millionth circle
From Jean Shinoda Bolen's book The Millionth Circle

how to keep a circle healthy

In principle, each member attends to her/his own psyche and to the circle.
  • Each keeps the intention and image of the circle with a center in mind, especially when there are difficulties
  • Each seeks her/his center, in meditation and silence, prays for wisdom, compassion, discernment, and courage for his/herself, and for the circle.
  • Each examines the state of her/his own psyche whenever sh/he feels off-center, or the circle is, and considers possibilities that sh/he is part of the problem: Am I projecting my shadow into someone? Is this a familiar polarized state I get into—is it my complex?
  • When the energy in the circle feels "off," anyone can ask for silence for each participant to do an inner check in with his/herself: How am I? And about the state of the circle: How does the circle feel? When it's a minor misalignment, the check-in time usually reconnects the circle to the center. When there is a major problem still to be resolved, this may be the time for each person to speak up and check in about how the circle feels and how s/he is and what the circle might do next.
  • If what was said in the circle was not held in confidence, it is a boundary problem for the circle (and not only a problem between two of its members). If it is not brought up and resolved the circle is not safe for anyone.
  • If one person dominates the circle the circle must remember that the intent is to be a circle of equals. Each needs to go to the center for wisdom and discernment, for compassion and courage. Each needs to speak up and name the problem that it is, for his/herself. When there is a problem in the circle if one participant speaks her/his truth there is a strong possibility that sh/he speaks for others who are silent or speaks for a silenced part in others.
  • Once we see how our actions appear and affect others, the problem we may be to others, may be solved. A circle is a multifaceted mirror in which each sees his/herself reflected. What sh/he sees of his/herself in the words and faces around her/his depends upon the capacity of each participant as mirror to be clear and compassionate. What we see depends upon the quality of the mirrors and the lighting, which can be kind to us or not, however true the image. What we see in ourselves, we can work on changing.
  • When the problem is letting a participant go when s/he is ready to leave the circle, the solution begins with acknowledging the feelings that arise, and by doing so, perhaps see the connection to a past personal loss, and know the difference. A leave-taking deserves a ritual to mark its significance for the participant and for the circle.
  • When a participant has a problem that is too much for the circle, the separation from the circle is harder. Not just for the person who goes under such circumstances, but on the circle as well. Both need to "bite the bullet" as the excision is done, and work on healing after. Maybe something will help, maybe nothing will but time.
  • Remember that a circle is not perfect.


In the circle, as in life, the most valuable lessons often come through having done the best we could do with the most difficult circumstances. The circle and its members grow in depth through its hardest times. "That, which doesn't kill us, makes us strong."

The archetype of a circle may be perfect. A circle never is.

But if it holds its center when troubles arise and there is wisdom and compassion and honesty and room for making mistakes, the circle is more than "good enough." It is a creative work of art in process.

millionth circle
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