Circles of openness

Dear Edgeryders,

I’d like to share an experience about resilient community practices. Last year I organized a series of meetings in Utrecht, The Netherlands. First they were about Free living and money, later they were about freedom and transforming trauma’s through awareness as I felt a desire to treat a more direct approach about individual transformation. I call these meetings “Circles of openness”.

Some of the meetings were extremely fruitful and transformative. Others were okay and sometimes a bit boring. What determined the quality of the meetings was the openess and willingness to share from an honest and authentic place, and to really be curious to share what feels exciting and challenging to someone. During the meetings where the mayority of the participants was willing to listen and feel into what’s relevant at that time, there was a magical openness and connection among the group. I truly enjoyed these meetings and they were one of the most beautiful shared moments of my life. What I also enjoyed is the power to transform through awareness. By expressing a doubt or a challenge and openly looking at it, it became possible to take distance from the perspective and let go of it. Also the awareness of the group seemed to stimulate and hold space for sharing these vulnerable perspectives.

What didn’t work so well was:

  • when people spoke in general terms and theoretically/ hypothetically without really feeling the question.

  • when people didn’t really want to be there

What did work well was:

  • sharing from your own experience

  • listening and asking questions to explore the perspective

  • holding space: being open to the perspective without taking it personally, listening with from an open space

  • using a talking stick, so one could speak at the time.

  • a good host and facilitator who’s comfortable with (almost) everything and ready to set some guidelines, such as: speaking from the heart, speaking from your personal experience, no interuptions and the talking stick.

In my experience these circles of openness help build relationships of trust and create a vital space for transformation.

Let me know if you want to find out more. I’m playing with the idea to organize new “Circles of openness” over the next months.

Thanks for reading!

Warm regards,


@Noemi you might find this interesting!

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Mood, Time, PLace, Energy

Thanks for sharing this Ewoud. I’d love to come to one of these circles and you are very welcome to host them at the homebase in Brussels if you like.

A few times I have been lucky enough to be in this kind of conversation where there was flow. I’ve always assumed that they happen serendipitously when the stars align somehow- so many different things that are there at the same time. The mood, the sense of being there in a kind of timeless state, the conversation happening for its own sake and not tied to any kind of agenda. Kind of like wandering aimlessly around a beautiful forest…

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the art of real conversation

Thanks @ewoudvenema,

I’ve also found that creating the spaces for conversations willing to push the normal boundaries of politeness or superficiality can be tremendously transformative. I’m curious as to whether you were referencing a particular approach - such as Parker Palmers beautiful book A Hidden Wholeness. I find it particularly helpful the way he describes these kinds of spaces as counter-cultural. My own learning the hard way suggests that it takes a particular kind of noticing and differentiation of norms to create and preserve these kind of spaces.



Parker Palmer; circles of trust

Delighted to find that you @gehan have read and appreciated “A Hidden Wholeness” too! I would add my strong recommendation :slight_smile:


Is there a sharing learning curve that circles speed through?

I have never been part of such a group with such speedy process of opening up - even when deep conversations arise, we had been traversing a sort of coolness, then sociality, then friendliness, and more and more into deeper discussions. That stood for both personal and professional contexts; for both one on one conversations and group conversations. How do you go through this curve collectively, and so quickly, is probably really an art.

Are we talking one day workshops?

Familiar faces or strangers?

And how large a group is optimal?

Thanks @ewoudvenema for sharing so generously.

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Circles of openness


In my experience it these circles work very well when the group shares a common willingness to receive, listen, and is open to go into deep experiences. Also what works well is to set a clear invitation and some simple guidelines, such as the ones I described. They help the group process and give a certain structure to build up momentum. My experiences have been diverse. I’ve experienced beautiful gatherings where love, depth and understanding were shared among all participants. Sometimes when the group was mixed deeply sharing also lead to some confusion as these depths were not familiar to everyone and not everyone seemed to grasp the depth of the experience of someone else. Although I think it didn’t harm or shock anyone too much, I do think it may have lead to some confusion. For instance, I once went very deep receiving the talking stick and staying silent for a few minutes, all attention on me, I didn’t want to “just say something” so I stayed present with my inner dynamics (and doubts) in front of everyone. Finally, I said something that felt true to me. So I remained connected to my inner truth. The woman who was sitting next to me didn’t know how quick she had to say something when I gave her the talking stick. Ever since our contact between me and the woman have been somewhat weird. Coming to think of it, I should have probably talked to her sometime and exchange perspectives lightly… :slight_smile: (oops).

This particular meeting was organized by a friend of mine btw and was a gathering of about 20 people, which is quite big for such a sharing. I’d say depending on the size of the group there will be different forms and formats that suit best the conversation. Not necessarily the bigger the group to more superficial. Groups can go very deep together when they are guided properly. This is a true art. And ideally, one question/ sharing leads to another, being able to deepen the conversation coming closer to opennings. And, maybe most importantly everything is good. So not resisting anything nor having an agenda helps for creating the space to be who you naturally are.

I believe the Circles of openness serve best around a certain theme that is loaded and which everyone has experiences with: I organized a series about money and I participated in one about sexuality. Both topics lead to a very vulnerable and warm sharing and brought everyone closer together. Also I think Circles work well for existing communities that work or live together, as tensions may arise during the daily practices. The latter I have some experiences with at the Synergyhub and the principle we used was to share from what’s alive in you at the moment. This worked pretty well.

I also initiated a circle once during a workshop where people didn’t really know each other and there wasn’t a real theme or topic. In that setting it didn’t feel really appropriate to do a sharing, as apart from being human and sharing a similar human experience (so there’s always (some) interest),  there wasn’t really a common intention or relevance to have this talk together. So I wouldn’t organize a circle “out of the blue” again.

Most of the meetings I was with had both familiar people and strangers. As long as the intention for the meeting is clear, it’s no problem and good examples will follow.

Most circles I went to lasted for about 1 to 2 hours. Although probably you know about retreats/ satsangs for instance with Bentinho Massaro that take about the whole day (with sessions of about 1,5 to 2 hours each). Have to say that during these days Bentinho (or some other "teacher) is the one who does most of the talking. Yet, he knows how to bring a group into depth. So, even though it’s a different form, there’s also huge transformation happening during these meetings.

@Nadia about organizing this at The Reef. I would say a circle is very appropriate and effective if there is a theme or topic that has great interest. When this is the case, we can do it. You could also guide it yourself if you feel excited.

And is there a learning curve, @Noemi ? Yes, for me personally very much. Through sharing so openly in a public space among others really gave me confidence to be vulnerable and fully present. Also for many others I feel sharing with each other has this effect. During some of my meetings I really saw people transform, releasing some of the doubts and limiting beliefs they had about themselves! Truly magical to be there when that happens! Moments I have very exciting and warm memories of.

So let me summarize my experiences:

  • Sharing from personal experiences - yet not getting caught up into the story. The aim is to gain clarity to let go of stories and have space te create the new.

  • Circles work well around certain (loaded) theme’s and communities who work/ life together with a clear invitation.

  • Listening from the heart, listening from beyond the personal perspective (not taking anything personal)

  • Everything that pops up from a genuine sharing is welcome, even if it’s off topic. What’s alive here and now is relevant, provided it serves the conversation & transformation of the whole (including the individual).

“Groups can go very deep together when they are guided properly”

I think that’s a crux, you said it yourself it’s an art. Okay, people can share a lot or a little, but if others are to contribute somehow to understandign things better it means that a facilitator conveys when the conversation can linger or move on? I dont think you understand things just by saying them out loud in a group, so you need attention; but for the group it’s also important that it stays relevant somehow. No matter how good a listener you are, or…?

It seems like quite a fine line, especially if the space is loaded with emotions.

Each afternoon and evening we’ll have space for self-organised sessions, but a circle of openness would be more organised i think - if you see a topic from the opencare conversations that would work, feel free to propose it. I will be on the lookout too! Big thanks <3

The topic could be: openness itself

What do you say if we explore openness and creative energy itself. We could explore this theme. How can we be more in alignment with ourselves/ our own creative energy? My experience is that when I’m good in my energy I use a combination of being both intentful as well as open to whatever comes up (inside of me). So it’s a combination of receptiveness and creative intent. So how can one cultivate the quality of being sensitive/ receptive and powerful/ intentful? Vulnerable as well as powerful. Loving as well as clear. Open as well as practical and creating physically (in whatever form excites one the most).

I’m excited about this theme. Would you like to explore this using the circle of openness? We could for instance pick a week at The Reef where we have circles every afternoon/ evening, while during the day everyone goes about their “normal”/ personal activities.

What do you say? @Noemi, @Nadia, @Matthias, and others…?

Money I think is a nice scary topic

It would be helpful I think. It’s messy and many relationships break over this topic. If we are to have a thriving, truthful space it is important to figure out. Let’s have a chat about this early next week?

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+1 for money

I think it will make for a meaningful session… Especially for people who know each other a little but perhaps not enough. We stand to learn a lot about others through those conversations… tabu in most contexts.


Ewoud proposed a call tomorrow at 11 am

It’ll be on the community call google hangout space . I’ll do a writeup if you don’t make it in person :slight_smile:

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…picking up this thread again

@ewoudvenema - picking up this thread again, could this form a session as part of the Architectures of Love theme? The kind of environment that would be created in a circle experience would reveal a number of harder to perceive conditions for creating the ‘microclimates’ that generate our natural impulse to care for one another. Some of this is expressed through our relationships to money. It’d be good to check in with where yours/others thoughts are on this?

Or has this gone elsewhere in the program following the call with @Nadia?

This session is being discarded if I got it right

@ewoudvenema is no longer able to participate/ lead its development, right?

So we will have to move on without, unfortunately.

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Yes, this door is closed. A new one opens.