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I am the woman who holds up the sky.
The rainbow runs through my eyes.
The sun makes a path to my womb.
My thoughts are in the shape of clouds.
But my words are yet to come.
ùPoem of the Ute Indians
I am not the first person to write about circles and I certainly wonÆt be the last. Starhawk wrote about circles in 1982, and Sedonia Cahill and Joshua Halpern introduced many people to circles in their 1990 book The Ceremonial Circle. In 1994 Christina Baldwin, in her groundbreaking book, Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture, introduced many to the idea that through circling we have the power to change our culture and the way we relate to one another.
Nor do I consider myself an "expert" on circles, although IÆve had many profound experiences in circle and have been part of one form of circle or another for many years. What I bring to this book is a deep belief in circles as vehicles for personal, community and global transformation, and an equally strong belief that women currently play, and are meant to continue to play, a significant role in this transformation.
I was called to write this book for reasons I still cannot fully explain. The primary messages of the bookùthat women must be the ones to lead the way in making the changes that will save humanity and Mother Earth, and that this change will come one circle at a timeùcame to me as an epiphany. The title and original structure of the book revealed themselves to me without any conscious thought or planning on my part.
Like a circle, this book has taken on a life of its own. Just as we need structure to begin a circle, I needed an original structure to begin the preliminary work. But, just as most circles become outpourings of spontaneous emotion and insight, so too has this book evolved. While the original structure remained intact, many other elements changed over time.
Along the way I learned many lessons, the most important being to trust the flow. Even though I was originally excited about writing the book (enough to sell Health Communications on the idea), there have been several periods when I resisted writing it. Because I was given no deadline, I kept delaying the writing. At times I became upset with myself about this because I normally do not procrastinate when writing a book. I am usually eager to begin writing, and I normally stay very involved throughout the writing process. Not so with Women Circling the Earth. Once I got my original ideas down on paper, I put off doing the necessary research and contacting those I felt would be instrumental in helping me add breadth and authority to the book. Since this was the first book IÆve written where I relied heavily on research and interviews with experts in the field, rather than on my own expertise and experiences, I rationalized that this was the cause of my procrastination.
Interestingly, as much as I agonized over the fact that I wasnÆt getting the book completed, another voice inside me kept saying, ôGive it time, let it unfold.ö This helped me take a deep breath and relax for a while. I was learning through my spiritual practices not to push the river but to trust that life will unfold in its own time.
Eventually I came to realize that it wasnÆt resistance to the research or the interviews that was causing me to write so slowly. It was a lack of courage and conviction. My original ideasùthat the womenÆs circle movement was the new womenÆs movement for the millennium, and it was up to women to change the worldùwere met with some resistance from a few of the women I first interviewed. Because I respected these women, their resistance caused me to lose confidence in my ideas, especially since it was so difficult for me to trace their origin.
It seemed there were still some lessons I needed to learnùabout circles, about the world and about myselfùbefore I could return to my original vision and complete the book. One such lesson was that if you trust your inner knowing, your inner wisdom, you will find your answers and your path. Ironically, this is one of the lessons stressed in womenÆs circles.
As time went by and I kept adding more and more material to the book, I came to realize that the book was too ôbigö and too important to rush. I came to see the fact that I had no deadline as a wonderful gift. The book could move along at its own pace. I could add what was important and take away what was not, like crafting a finely honed instrument.
Unconsciously, I was also waiting for the right time for the book to be published. This is the right time. The energy is right; people are more open to circling than at any other time in recent history. As we enter the new millennium, more and more people are recognizing the need for community and the need to return to ritual for sustenance, spiritual direction and enlightenment. Women Circling The Earth shows how we can strengthen both our social and spiritual ties through circle.
Many people are also interested in discovering ways to have a positive impact on the world. Circling can literally change the world, one circle at a time. And now, when argument and confrontation have replaced discussion and understanding, we desperately need a more positive way of resolving our conflicts and settling our differences. Circles, with their focus on speaking and listening from the heart, listening without judgment, not only tolerating but welcoming different perspectives on an issue and working toward consensus, offer a simple but profound way to resolve conflicts.
Equally important at this time in our history, more and more women (and men) are coming to the realization that we need womenÆs energy and the feminine values of connection, compassion and cooperation to turn this world around.
As a psychotherapist for over twenty-five years, I may seem like an unlikely person to write about womenÆs circles, particularly spiritual circles. But more and more often, spirituality and psychology are being intricately interwoven, forming a new school of thought altogether. No place demonstrates this new way of thinking more profoundly than do womenÆs circles, which often have as much power to heal the human psyche as some forms of psychotherapy.
This does not mean that I believe that circles can take the place of psychotherapy or recovery programs for people who have serious problems. But for those who have already worked on these issues in therapy or Twelve-Step programs (which, by the way, are excellent examples of circles) and wish to continue their growth, meeting in circle, especially if that circle is structured in a positive way, can do as much as or more than the average group counseling experience.
Personal growth is a continuum, and hopefully we are all continuing to grow and change. My interest in womenÆs circles is what I consider a natural outgrowth of the group work I did for so many years with survivors of childhood abuse. Just as there is still a need for survivor groups, especially during the early stages of recovery, there is also a need for the kinds of circles I write about in this book.
Part One of the book introduces you to womenÆs circles and the womenÆs circle movement. I share some of the history and symbology of the circle and explain its power.
Part Two offers an overview of the various ways circle can be utilized: to provide a much needed sense of community; to manifest healing; to achieve consensus and create change; and to help people reconnect with the sacred.
Part Three offers suggestions on how to create your own circle. I begin by presenting an overview of the various types of womenÆs circles that now exist so you can decide which type of circle best serves your purposes. This section includes a listing of the elements needed to create a circle, as well as suggestions for structuring your circle.
Part Four discusses how women are circling the Earth with their ideas, traveling around the Earth to learn and share their wisdom, and bringing important information from other countries back home. I interview major leaders and role models in the growing circle movement to get their input about the power of circle, to better understand the circleÆs role in saving the world and its inhabitants, and to learn what these leadersÆ individual goals are. I then show you how to become part of the circle movement and how to make circling an integral part of your life. You will learn how to translate what you practice and learn in circles into your daily life, and how circling principles can become a spiritual practice.
Several years ago I had a dream so real that for several hours afterward it felt as if it had actually happened, a dream so poignant that the feeling of joy it elicited stayed with me for days. In the dream I had traveled to a place not too far away, a land that seemed very familiar. Once there I was delighted to discover that a group of women had been waiting for me. These wonderful, wise and caring women welcomed me into their fold, and I felt privileged to be with them. They were the women I had always dreamed of being with, the women I knew waited for me somewhere. I was filled with joy now that I had finally found them. These women were my home.
I believe that within every woman lies this same dream and that we are all longing to come home to our circle of women. We all have a circle of women waiting for us somewhereùor a circle waiting to be created. My highest hope for each of you reading this book is that you find your circle, that you find your way home.
(c)2000. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Women Circling The Earth by Beverly Engel. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.