(You can read the sequel of this article at Beyond Circling: I have a dream)
I returned a few days ago from a conference with a group called the International Primal Association (IPA). I loved every minute of it (almost, as told below), and even taught a couple workshops. I am feeling very alive this morning, and it prompted some reflections on what I am calling “transformational tribes”.
Plans are moving forward. I will be leaving New Hampshire and my mother in late June for the next great adventure. The itinerary includes, for starters, New Culture Camp in West Virginia, Asheville and Austin. I have a reservation for Burning Man (it’s called a low-income ticket) but I am not certain to go, as it’s 4 days drive from Austin. I want to investigate the possibility of starting an Authentic Relating commune (intentional community) in Austin, or somewhere else. If this works out, a trip to Burning Man might occur as a distraction. We’ll figure it out.
It’s been a time of deep reflection and, for the most part, of deep happiness here at my mother’s. I am working a little bit but mostly I am still obsessed with Circling. Some of you, I am sure, thought this was a phase I was going through. A few of you even told me so directly, lol. However my activities there continue to expand. I am circling 8 or 10 hours a week, both on the online platforms and in private (closed) groups that I have formed, which have been very successful. I am adding one or two open (drop-in groups) as well, I call them “video lunches”, if you are interested just subscribe at Circling Handbook and follow the instructions in the welcome mail.
I want to explain why I am so taken with Circling. All of my life I have been seeking a community-based healing movement, a transformational tribe, that I could really commit myself to leadership. A kind of religious or mystical quest, I suppose, a practical way to live out Jerry Jud’s Skills and Principles of Loving, which are essentially the teachings of Jesus. This movement would need to meet several criteria: to have real power or effectiveness; to have integrity; to be free or low-cost; to have a global reach and a compelling vision for a new society. I thought I had found this movement in Re-Evaluation Counseling (RC), 25 years ago, but there were deal-killer integrity problems with RC. 12 steps was good, but after 5 or 10 years it did not do anything more for me. NVC and Buddhism came very close, indeed I had some deep insights into Buddhism in my time in India, and even recently have become enthralled by Pema Chodron and The Way of the Bodhisattva, which is also precisely the same idea. But the thing with Circling, in addition to it meeting all the criteria, is just that it’s so much fun. If it’s not fun, I am not going to do it. That’s the bottom line. I find Circling incredibly fun and connecting, deeply transformative, it costs very little or nothing, and it has a global reach. Strictly speaking it is mostly in North America and North-Western Europe, but it has deep penetration there (see Communities Map), and there are also two online platforms. I am hooked. I cannot imagine anything more interesting to do for the rest of my life than to educate and practice and write and promote this type of movement. So that’s the plan.
Hence my new-found happiness. Now, back to the IPA and my experience there.
At evening time, I went to my peer group (“family group”). There were 5 of us, all of us exhausted and maybe even semi-regressed after 3 days of intense process work and relating. Two people were practically sleeping in their chairs, even as the rest of us were sharing. There was a dance-party planned for later that night, the last night of the conference. I was having a mini melt-down, going on about how pissed off I was about being too tired to go to the party, and my resentment towards people who were able to go for 12 hours straight and still have energy left for a party.
But then, all of of a sudden, this strangest idea occurred to me: everyone in this room, beginning with myself, is bat-shit crazy. Very articulate for sure, and sometimes brilliant, but utterly insane, at least in this moment. There are a lot of incest survivors here, children of alcoholic families, and most of us have spent a lifetime in therapy or self-help groups with not much to show for it, at least from the outside. But we have love. How is this possible? How is it possible for a group of people as diverse and as “crazy” as we are, not only to get along with each other, but to generate a space of such deep acceptance, safety, and belonging? I would not even be able to believe it, if the evidence were not in my face.
And furthermore: they call us “crazy” for the simple reason that we cannot understand how “normal” people can tolerate their lives. The lies, the hypocrisy, the cruelty of the world, all the time pretending that everything is Okay, the “it is astonishing the effort that we put into trying to appear that we are different from who we really are” [Dieter Duhm]. We, the “crazies” of the world, we just don’t have the strength for this.
And is this so shameful, is this such a crime, to be unable to understand how “ordinary” people can remain functional in this madness?
And these thoughts filled me with such delight that I instantly forgot my resentments about those fuckers who are able to go all day and still have energy for a dance party! I went to bed and slept the sleep of an angel, despite loud music downstairs.
I look forward to seeing some of you quite soon!