More About Story Circles

The Story Circle is not a new idea, it is present in the fabric and structure of every depth-seeking tradition and community since the first campfire of our common ancestors long ago. ?A Story Circle is simply a small group of mutually supportive individuals who intentionally gather on a regular basis to share personal journeys with one another in a context of collective depth reflection and meaningful exchange. ?Within this context, from time to time, transformation may happen.

One of the primary functions of this website is to provide curriculum materials and direction in support of Story Circle groups.

Why do I participate in a Story Circle?

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How do I organize a Story Circle?

?Deliverance from the distress of our times can come only from small groups with the courage to remain small, at first, so as not to be burdened by unsuitable elements ? In the new foundations the waters of mysticism are again beginning to flow.? ? Walter Nigg

There are currently many experiments with small Story Circle-type groups taking place around the world under many different names. ?The lessons gained from some of these experiments are included here as guidelines which may be helpful in starting a Story Circle. These are ?guidelines,? not absolutes, and there are clearly exceptions to all of them.

Commitment is important when establishing a Story Circle. ?Most busy people are not inclined to commit to a project that has no end in sight. ?Therefore, there is wisdom in establishing a beginning and an end to any group program. ?It is recommended that a Story Circle group agree to gather at regular intervals for a period of one year. ?After a year it is our recommendation that a Story Circle call itself ?out of being.? ?The Story Circle has the opportunity to re-configure again for another year if there is a will within the group or any of the individual members. ?This cyclical path preserves the option for individuals to depart in good stead in order to pursue alternative groups or other journeys more in line with their personal interior evolution. ?The underlying principle supporting the practice of annual group completion and renewal is that Story Circles do not exist for themselves, nor do they exist for the sake of existing. ?The authentic Story Circle has no interest in ?Institutionalization.? ?The intent of Story Circle is to provide a context for a specific period of time for those who gather to share the experience. The structure of the Story Circle then goes out of existence just like all other ?things? and all human institutions.

Frequency of Gatherings and Timeframes is another important consideration. ?Gathering once a month is a safe and non-threatening frequency in our current busy culture. ?However, many groups experience once a week gatherings as more sustaining, providing continuity that can be lost when meeting less often. ?All of this can be balanced with the length of time within which the group decides to gather. ?Less than 60 minutes is probably not enough time to allow full participation from those gathered. ?More than two hours becomes impractical for many active members. ?Sixty to 90 minutes seems to be an optimal amount of time for gatherings. ?Therefore, assess within the group what works and do that.

Experiment!

Experimentation is a key factor in evolving any Story Circle. ?There are not absolutes in such human designs and a Story Circle is always a work in progress and a matter of mutual discovery within the group.

Recruitment is a fundamental requirement of starting and sustaining a Story Circle or any group. ?The appropriate size of a Story Circle, in most instances, is between 5 and 12 members. ?Clearly there are many exceptions to this guideline. However, with less than 5 members the exchange of possibilities are not as vital and with more than 12 members all may not have an opportunity to fully share and participate.

One of the best places to begin recruitment is to seek out those with whom you already have a relationship but would like to share a depth journey or conversation. Acquaintances with whom you do not have a significant relationship but with whom you believe you would like to share a depth exchange are also excellent prospects. ?The guideline here is to begin with your current, already existing, circle of relationships. ?It may or may not be the case that those you know best are the most promising members of a Story Circle. ?Sometimes it is most difficult to achieve depth interactions with those we ?believe? we already know and conversely it sometimes most comfortable to communicate with those from whom we are more detached. ?Throughout history the ?bartender dynamic? has been a bond between strangers freely sharing depth concerns and reflections they would never share with someone in their daily inner circle.

Recruitment will continue to be a reality throughout the life of a Story Circle. Some members who begin the journey may find it incompatible with their needs or interests. ?It is important to understand that recruitment is a vital and ever-present dimension of an existing Story Circle.

A Story Circle can be created in partnership or combination with other interest groups, such as an existing study group, book club, dinner club, tea group, women?s/men?s group, athletic team etc. However, for a gathering to take on the dimension of a Story Circle, it requires a depth focus at its center.

Structure of the Story Circle

A spectrum of options exists for the structure of a Story Circle gathering. ?A free-form ?bull session? represents one end of the spectrum with a ?highly regimented, tightly choreographed structure? on the other end. ?We have found a balance in the middle of the spectrum to be a more accommodating structure. ?It is helpful to have a formal opening to punctuate the beginning of a gathering and a formal closing to accentuate the end. ?If the group has commonly accepted and meaningful rituals or poetry from a shared tradition, this can be helpful in highlighting the start or finish of a gathering. ?If such commonality does not exist, the group may choose to design its own rituals or experiment with new poetic rituals each time. ?A ritual can be as simple as ?Welcome, I am grateful to share this experience with you today,? to the recitation of some traditional depth poetry by the facilitator or by the group as a whole. ?This can be an area of meaningful exploration and experimentation. ?Formally beginning the Story Circle with a bell or resonant sound opening to 1-2 minutes of silence is also an effective ritual for staring a Story Circle gathering.

A time for Personal Sharing is an important element in the structure of a Story Circle gathering. ?During this time each participant shares a brief reflections on the defining events and significant experiences that have shaped their life experience since the previous gathering. ?This personal sharing becomes a backdrop for the depth curriculum reflections that follow.

A few minutes of written Solitary Journal Reflection over a few questions provided by the Facilitator (and available with many of the Story Circle Curriculum Modules on this website) is an excellent way to allow each individual to ground and process their personal interior journey regarding the focus material prior to discussion with the group.

A sample guideline for a Story Circle Gathering might include:

  • 2-5 minutes: Opening ? Welcome Statement or Group Ritual
  • 10-20 minutes: Personal Sharing and Reflections since last Gathering
  • 20-30 minutes: Curriculum Encounter/Study
  • 5-7 minutes: Solitary Journal Reflections
  • 30-60 minutes: ?Group Discussion
  • 2-5 minutes: Announcements and Closing

Facilitation

A Story Circle can be facilitated by the same individual each time or by rotating members of the group.

Why start or join a Story Circle?

There is only one reason to start or join a Story Circle: to transform the world.

If we are to transform the world, why not do so in the time and space we actually occupy and with those with whom we actually share life?s journey?

The fourteenth Dalai Lama reminds us: ?Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.?

Today is a good day to transform the world.

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