With thanks to Christine Baldwin and Ann Linnea of PeerSpirit; used with permission
The center is the heart of the circle. This is where the group mind and the group spirit reside. Set a table for them here -- offer light, flowers, incense or whatever beautiful thing you might think of. You may add to this altar something that represents you -- an item you bring specifically for this purpose or something of the moment -- a piece of jewelry, scarf, photo from your wallet, etc.
The center also represents the hearth or the fire pit around which humankind has gathered in a circle for hundreds of thousands of years. A candle placed in the middle represents life-giving fire, warmth, safety, home.
The center acts as a filter for what is spoken. We do not address a specific person when we speak from our hearts. We speak to the center, to the group mind and spirit. The center receives our words and allows them to pass through blessed and enhanced by Spirit.
The center is the open vessel waiting to receive. It is a dancing floor, a threshing floor, a stage, a portal, all open and waiting for whatever might manifest. This is the place of mystery from which synchronicity, magic and healing arise.
People hold the rim, forming a perfect circle in which each face can be seen by every other face. Holding the rim means coming into the community consciously in agreement with the intent of the circle. Around the rim, thoughts are spoken, things get decided, action is deliberated and initiated.
A circle, even an impromptu one needs to know why they are coming together. This process can happen very quickly, when one person articulates and the others agree. Or, it may involve a lengthier process in which, for example, everyone writes down what they perceive the intention to be and the group discusses it until consensus is reached. What is important is that everyone is holding the same conception as to why the group is meeting.
Each person places ultimate reliance in the center and takes their place on the rim. Through simple ritual and constant refocusing, the center, literally and symbolically, becomes sacred space- a place where everyone's willingness-to-listen dwells.
Every person helps the circle function by assuming small increments of leadership. Leadership may shift from moment to moment and task by task. Rotating leadership trusts that the resources to accomplish the circle's needs exist within the group and that the group is willing to accept and learn from the different leadership style each member brings forward.
Each person pays attention to what needs doing or saying next and is willing to do their share. Responsibility shifts moment-to-moment and task-by-task. Shared responsibility trusts that someone will come forward to provide whatever the circle needs: helping each other take action, calling for silence, offering the next meeting space, etc.
To focus clearly on what is being said by someone else
To contribute what has heart and meaning to the present situation.
To consider the impact of our words and actions before, during and after.
What is my body telling me?
Am I pulling energy -- asking for attention energetically?
Will what I have an impulse to do or say benefit the group?
How can I consider what I say, before I say it, and still speak my truth?
Am I willing to be taught as well as to teach?
Am I willing to wait for the sense that Spirit is speaking through me?
The circle must make some basic agreements between themselves about how the circle will operate. Of course these can be tailored to suit the needs of the group. There are some basic agreements that have proven themselves useful if not necessary in order for the group to manifest its intention.
Someone designated by the group to watch the energy and care for practical matters i.e. bathroom breaks, relief of heightened tension, implementing a request, etc. The guardian helps the circle to fulfill its social contracts: timeliness, focus
The guardian is granted ceremonial authority, by the circle members, to interject silence, to remind the group of the task on hand, or to gently remind the group of the agreements.
This role may be taken on by the guardian or by another member of the circle. The timekeeper is used when the group agrees to limit the speakers' time. The timekeeper can use an instrument or hand signals to designate time up or warn that time is running out.
Anyone on the rim can call for back up. Whether a person is speaking or listening they may sometimes feel extremely emotional or vulnerable. In that case they may call for someone in the circle to come sit or stand behind them, either touching them or not, who silently supports their intention to stay present and speak or hear something difficult.
The talking stick can be any object so designated from a decorated ceremonial piece to a fountain pen. It is a physical object held in the hand and passed from speaker to speaker. It signifies that the person holding it has the floor. They may speak or remain silent while holding it but while they hold it no one else speaks.
The guardian and/or timekeeper use these to stop verbal communication in order to recenter the group, diffuse energy or rest.
Objects to mark and define the sacred space at the center of the circle.
Some groups like to keep pictures of altars, records of meeting themes, photos of circle members past & present, particular rituals, or significant celebrations.