5 years ago, in my little Grade 1 & 2 opportunity classroom*, we began our days the same way each day…
The pitter patter of little feet shuffled in the door and across the classroom to our “cozy carpet corner.” Here, my partner teacher would greet each one of them, inviting them to sit down.
Each little bum would find a spot on the carpet, making a circle with their peers and the classroom teacher. You can bet that I joined them too… 😉
Our morning circle on the cozy carpet was our opportunity to come together and connect before we began the rest of our day. We’d say good morning to all of our classroom friends and everyone would have the opportunity to share what was on their mind or how they were feeling that day.
Even my most anxious students eagerly awaited their turn to speak at morning circle.
Gathering in a circle on the carpet became a ritual in our little classroom.
But, it’s not an uncommon one…
Gathering in circles has been a common occurrence throughout history. From King Arthur’s knights at the round table to our Indigenous peoples celebrating and storytelling around a fire.
Coming together in a circle is a part of our primitive roots.
Human beings have been doing so for as long as we can remember – Or, as long as we can find records of.
But Why? What’s So Special About Circles?
Circles are repeatedly found all throughout nature.
Just think about it for a moment… What greets us in the morning sky each waking day? And what lights up the darkness at night?
Yes, I’m well aware that the moon isn’t ALWAYS out at night. It’s on a different cycle and makes its appearance during the day sometimes too. In fact, one morning I was greeted by BOTH the sun and moon! – How magical!
We too, are a part of nature. It’s part of who we are and why we have this internal longing to connect through circles.
But, I Wonder… Is There Something More To It? Is There Science Behind The Power Of Circles?
Researchers have been busy studying the circle…
And they’ve started to learn more and more about why the circle is so apparent in our history and why we are drawn to gathering in them – Why it’s in our nature to gather in them.
Circles, unlike other rigid shapes, provide a sense of security. A safety net.
When we form a circle, all ranks of authority seem to disappear…
No one is sitting up higher than another. No one is in front of another.
We are all the same distance apart.
It’s because of this that we feel a sense of security and unity in our circles.
We feel a part of a community.
We feel like we belong to something bigger than ourselves.
And we KNOW that belonging and connection is a human need. We have a NEED to belong.
When We Gather In A Circle Of A Group We Belong To, We Can Let Our Guards Down.
We can open up.
It is in circles where we feel most safe and can openly express ourselves authentically – without fear.
I was attending a Professional Development session led by some Psychologist (Wish I would have remembered to take their name down…) where I was first exposed to the science behind circles…
After that, I began noticing ALL the circles in my life and my past experiences where the safety net of a circle rang true.
Not just from when I was a kid… But even more recent experiences too!
At the time, I had just started going to a new CrossFit gym. Being new to the area (and new to CrossFit in general), I found myself a little intimidated…
Typically, when I’m nervous…. I don’t say too much. But…
This CrossFit gym must have understood the power of circles too and helped me (and many others) open up.
At the beginning of each group class, we’d gather in a circle for a quick introduction and a little icebreaker “Question of the Day”.
It was in this circle, I could authentically be me. And others could authentically be them.
(You would have never been able to tell who the introverts at the gym were!)
Because in that circle, everyone, if only for a moment, was an extrovert.
Everyone was equal.
This CrossFit gym was KNOWN for its community. It had one of the tightest and welcoming communities thanks to its amazing coaches and their understanding and utilization of circles.
(I swear I’m not just saying that because one of the coaches is my boyfriend now… 😉)
I saw first hand why the circle represents unity…
And WHY we should continue to follow in our primitive roots.
Especially in a time of high anxieties and worries.
I hope this blog post inspires you to be on the lookout for circles in your own life and maybe even lead a few circles of your own.
*Opportunity Classroom – One of many special needs program, specifically for cognitive delays
Need Some Ideas?
Here are 6 Tips to Get You Started:
Whether you have your own classroom, manage a company, or have a family at home, you can apply these suggestions to your life and adapt them to fit your lifestyle and/or career.
- Hold Weekly/Monthly Sharing Circles
I used to hold sharing circles with my students. Sometimes we just need to get something off our chest in order to move on with our days. Be respectful of one another. Have rules in place that prevent people from interrupting one another. With young children, a talking stick works magic here! If you’re unfamiliar with talking sticks, the rule is simply whoever holds the stick is the speaker at the moment while everyone else is listening compassionately. The speaker passes along the stick to the next person when they’re done. (Tip: For children, a sand timer is a wonderful cue to help children get out their thoughts but also be respectful of the next person’s time to speak… Come to think of it, I know some adults who could use a sand timer too… 😉)
- Icebreaker ‘Question of the Day’ Circles
This is similar to what my Crossfit gym would do at the beginning of each group class. This is fun to try with a new group of people to get them to open up, but it could also be done among peers. In the classroom to start off your day or a certain block, in staff meetings to get a meeting started with some lightness, or even around the dinner table! The question could be ANYTHING! From more serious questions like “What are you grateful for?” to something silly like “If you had to pick between eating a donut from the garbage or going to work with stained clothes, what would you choose?”
- Mindfulness or Meditation Circles
Collectively meditating, chanting or simply breathing together is POWERFUL. Doing so in a circle… even MORE powerful! Whether you have a classroom or club (like I used to), or work in an office with a team, everyone can benefit from a collective breath before proceeding with their day. Even consider doing this at home with your family! Take a deep breath before your meal. Or gather in a quick circle for a deep collective family breath before leaving your home to take your children to school.
- Circles around the Campfire (Storytelling, Singing, Dancing or just Having Fun!)
This is probably something you do anyway but didn’t realize how powerful and unifying it is! Keep doing it, just be intentional about it. Get together with friends or family and spend time together. If someone knows how to play guitar, great! Get them to bring it along and sing a few songs together (Singing holds a powerful vibration of its own – more on that in another blog post). Or tell stories – real life or spooky ghost stories. Whatever floats your boat!
- Arrange Your Furniture in a Circle
I’ve only ever seen this done once in a classroom, but it would be cool if your students could go to class each day and really feel a part of the community you created! How about during staff meetings? Scrap the typical seating and move your chairs in a circle! I bet more people would start speaking up… What about at home? Can you rearrange your couches in a circular shape or sit at a round dining table more often?
- Hold Celebratory Circles
Celebrating a birthday or someone special? What about when someone hits their targets at work or gets a promotion? I challenge YOU to find a quick minute to come together in a circle and celebrate! Celebrating others makes them and us feel great. And sadly, it’s not done enough… We don’t always “have the time” to celebrate others. Or, at least we think we don’t have the time… That celebration could be as quick and a congratulations and a group cheer or sing happy birthday! Look for those quick moments! You won’t regret it!