I recently met with Tami Frank, a Queens community member and Circling leader, to discuss something that she discovered that has had a great impact on her life. The subject she wanted me to share is called Circling (also known as Interactive Talking Meditation). It is an organic, in-the-moment interpersonal process that’s equal parts art form, meditation, and group conversation – all designed to allow a visceral experience of connection and understanding of another person’s world, celebrating who and where they are right now.
Tami explained that circles are a symbol of connection and eternity. With this Circling method, people gain a fresh new view and connection to others. She taught that there is an inner circle where you express yourself to 8-12 people. The experience lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. This freeing experience accompanies you as you head into your outer circle of work, family, and friends. It helps one to expand into his or her circle in different relationships.
Tami shared that when you participate in Circling, it transforms how you relate to yourself and to others. It facilitates being authentic in a nonjudgmental, safe zone. The strength you gain from participating and communicating in this circle then strengthens you in your outer circle of everyday life relationships.
She emphasized that it is not a support group or a therapy session. No one is trying to fix anyone. It is a place where people can be completely seen without judgment in their own uniqueness, and they are celebrated for who they are. In the circle set-up, you are encouraged, and you are very present and listening. It is structured with certain guidelines to help everyone focus. “It’s a circle of the mind. You are together and present for each other in that circle.” The guidelines that the leader facilitates help participants to perform wholehearted listening. Everyone shares. There is no musar or feedback. It is just a way of letting a person foster self-awareness. It helps you to expand yourself.
Tami shared that on Zoom, the circle takes a life of its own. People share and someone can be triggered by another person. There is a flow of people sharing. No one is obligated to share. There is no specific theme. The outcome of every circle is different. One of the takeaways is that everyone sees that he or she is not isolated. It’s such a positive experience for people to see that they are not alone. She noted that even on Zoom there is the energy of connection with others.
Tami pointed out that Circling helps to grow deeper self-awareness. The end of it is that it gives people strength to go branch out into the world. It helps them face the outside world.
Tami shared her personal story with Circling and how she became a facilitator. She is a self-help junkie, she said. She loves to read self-help books. She is into personal growth. She came across Circling when she found one that had a Hollywood facilitator, and she was intrigued and curious what it was. She signed up for a virtual Circling experience. She went into it rather skeptically but left blown away. “I felt the impact. There were four sessions, and it was transformational. I felt deep connection to these women in the circle. There was authenticity and relationship-building. I felt like we were sisters. They were from all over the world.”
Tami explained that the facilitator puts out a prompt like “What is the greatest gift you ever received” or “What do you fear,” etc. “By the fourth session, I felt free to be myself. I felt accepted.” Tami imparted that there are deeper parts to our neshamah and authenticity. “I felt so liberated afterwards.” She felt that doing this would make her a better person. It is a detox from fakeness. “You’re in this little circle and everyone supports each other. It helps you to feel accepted. You can be more yourself in the outer world after this experience.”
She shared that it is empowering to be true to yourself. The more you know yourself and you are authentic, the more others will be authentic around you. Tami shared that as a facilitator she has a list of 75 different prompts. Her job is to set the guidelines and enforce them. The guidelines are the key in the first six minutes, as they set the tone of the circle. Included in guidelines are ideas like no ego, no distractions, don’t give answers to fix something, and put judgment away. Tami pointed out that people share more authentically when they don’t feel judged. It really helps all to feel that they can just be themselves. She said that it is like filling your cup. It’s like yoga for the emotions. “It helps me to be more present and experience life on a deeper level.”
Tami concluded, “Since Circling affected me like that, I couldn’t keep it a secret!”