circle retreat

The experience of a circle retreat cannot easily be conveyed in words, because something occurs in the collective energy in the group; energy that starts to lead the group experience. The shared intention and focus of the participants allow for an amplified field to grow, and the facilitator is invited to follow this amplified field, rather than follow an agenda. As a participant, we are often moved and triggered by things that we cannot consciously comprehend. Because all individuals surrender to the collective energy, the separation between individuals temporarily diminishes and we start to feel things more intensely. Our own feelings, but also our neighbors, and the collective energy. When another participant is going through a release or integration process, the other participants (that resonate with the subject) can benefit from the same healing effects. Circle work exists in many forms. Some circles involve sacred ritual or prayer. Some are designed for processing trauma or moving beyond addiction.
One of the most important skills we develop when participating in circle work is holding space. In a group, only one or a few participants at a time can be at the center of attention. Their theme, subject, or goal is explained, expressed, and processed. As they are moving through their process, all other participants remain fully focused, with open hearts, without judgment, without intention to fix or change what they are observing. This is what creates the amplified field, in which something magical takes place, that allows individuals to process personal issues deeply within a short amount of time. The intelligence of the collective field and the nurturing and witnessing presence of the group allow our nervous systems to relax. This allows for an embodied healing experience, that exceeds healing on a mental level. Once we’ve practiced this art of holding space for others, it is much easier to apply this to ourselves, in the moments we need our inner parent to hold space for the inner child that lives inside of us. We then don’t have to rely on external support, but instead, we can offer ourselves the safety in which we can process our deepest suppressed emotions. 

A specific type of circle that is very effective in the area of healing ourselves, and invites us to become more authentic and more deeply connected to self, is the Heart Circle. Tej Steiner developed the Heart Circle model. It emphasizes ‘personal presence’ and uses the collective field to give participants greater access to their inner guidance. It doesn’t incorporate specific teachings or beliefs. It is about being in the moment together so that we have access to insights and direction that is only available when we are truly present with each other. In circle, we experience a social environment that encourages us to wake up from the illusion that we are alone and disconnected from life and one another. It is designed to bring us into the safety and enjoyment of the present moment together. As this occurs, we relax more deeply and have greater access to the subtle longings of our hearts rather than the conditioning of our minds. It brings us clarity about what we truly want in life.

With his own interpretation of the circle model, Christian Pankhurst founded Heart IQ, facilitating circles and training facilitators. During Heart IQ retreats, we are upgrading ourselves. The focus is not on fixing a problem, but on imprinting ourselves and our nervous system with a healthy way of being and interacting with ourselves and others. In circle, we are invited to expand our emotional range and to open ourselves to our feelings rather than resist the depth of the feelings, while we are supported by a safe energetic container. We might even be able to find joy in the experience of our more intense emotions. When the resistance against certain feelings is no longer needed, we have a chance to trust our inner foundation, and to stop wearing a mask for the world around us. We no longer lose energy in constantly managing ourselves, and instead, we practice just being. From that space, our authentic essence can emerge and our actions become effortless and purposeful. An overview of upcoming retreats can be found on the Heart IQ website.

Another circle model is called surrendered leadership, which was founded by Circling Europe. It’s a form of leadership that surrenders to the collective intelligence. The facilitator tunes into the group and invites the orchestra to play and he surrenders to what arises from each moment to the next. He also surrenders to each individual person by attuning to their essence. It gives the opportunity to play and experiment in a space that is profoundly free. It can draw light on our ways of being with a gentle sharpness while whispering to us to notice the inter-connectivity that is alive between us. There is an invitation for every individual to practice self-leadership, as the role of the facilitator is usually more passive in these circles. An overview of upcoming retreats and trainings can be found on the Circling Europe website.