I am so pleased that many folks at Jo’s workshop in their thanks to me for the work Ellika and I do in the wide world. Sally thought more people might like to know about it and asked me for a brief summary. So here it is.
From October through April each year we go weekly into a number of prisons in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to lead Native American spiritual circles. The states characterize this as religion, which is why they allow it, but as our elders teach that it is not religion but a whole way of life. These circles bring the men to a consciousness of their basic and good human nature, one they are able to grasp through understanding the ways in which they were hurt and the realization of the innocence with which they entered the world.
After thanking the Earth and all our relatives throughout Creation we pass a talking stick, and people will speak from their hearts without interruption and with supportive respect and attention from everyone. Listening to one another they feel a connection in their feelings and a bond develops that is deeper and stronger than any they have known on the outside.
As a result this program has an unusually low incidence of recidivism. The men are grateful to it as the one place where they will be treated with respect and find a new possibility in recreating their lives based on who they really are. Many times in the past 25 years we have heard men say that the circle saved their lives, and that they are so grateful they want to do something to repay for that gift. Details of how the program works and reactions of some of the men can be found in my book Ending Violent Crime. Once a month we host a sweat lodge, a pot luck feast, and a circle here on our land for ex-prisoners and supporters.
The elders taught me that their teachings were for all human beings, not just for First Nations people, so everyone is welcome to all circles.
From May to October Ellika and I are based out of her house in Christiania, the famous free haven in Copenhagen that just celebrated its 40th birthday. (Check it out on the Internet if you don’t know it.) From there we travel through all Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, and sometimes France, Spain or Portugal, leading weekend workshops and camps of a week or more, in what we call The Circle Way (www.circleway.org) which is a blend of what my elders told me of the Original Instructions for human beings and RC theory and practice, that mesh together perfectly in the understanding of the goodness and richness of all Creation and every single person, and the importance of our relationship to each other as being equal in importance in the web of life.
As the elders taught we begin each circle with a thanksgiving. Then we hear what is good and new from all the circle, and we may present thoughts about the art of listening, about the importance of discharge, decision, commitment, and action. We will have minis often, we will have demonstrations, sometimes panels, there will be space once or twice a day for support groups which we call clans, and people will have the option to lead topic groups and to have longer sessions during the day. We will enjoy each other’s creativity, composing songs, making skits, telling stories from our lives, sharing poetry, singing, dancing, drumming and playing instruments. There will be circles devoted to relations with young people, support of parents, introducing the idea of special time, and family workshops of play times with everyone playing with all the children and counseling about their own childhoods.
At the end of the workshops, and even more at the end of the camps, people will be eloquent about how the information, the sessions, the playing with each other, the working and living together and getting very close to each other especially within the clans, has changed them and given them hope for their lives and for the world, seeing how possible it is to reach out and help each other to make the changes we want to make in the world. We get mail and calls and email all year from people telling us how they have begun their own circles and introduced The Circle Way at home.
After each event I inform folks that the tools we use come from an international community called Reevaluation Counseling, which they can learn more about at www.rc.org and through the literature and RC teachers in many areas. I let them know that the goals and structures and guidelines of RC are necessarily different from those of The Circle Way, but that it is useful for us to stay as close to the vanguard as possible, to benefit from what it has taken RC 60 years to figure out. I am happy to say that several of the RC teachers and leaders in Europe came to it from our circles.
My latest book, Have You Lost Your Tribe?, speaks to all that and describes some of the ecovillages we also work closely with. I have a goal to introduce The Circle Way throughout the thousands of sustainable living communities around the world. One such has just begun in Austria that is based on The Circle Way – they circle three times a week and counsel with each other, report that they keep getting closer and are very excited with it – as also all the visitors there who experience the circles seem to be.
The task I have set for this winter is to finish writing my book The Joy of Caring for Children in The Circle Way, based on our family work and dedicated to Tim Jackins, Patty Wipfler, Chuck Esser, Jenny Sazama and Emmy Rainwalker, all of whom have had a tremendous influence on our work (Emmy also teaches at our German camp every summer). In building our own global movement I am always deeply aware in all I do of the ideas and the personal help that I received, the interest, attention, advice and encouragement of my amazing friend Harvey Jackins.