Re: Sharing Circles
From: pattymara (
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 22:23:01 -0600 (MDT)
At Tierra Nueva, central CA coast, we have what we call Community Life
meetings, every other month, to talk about the intrapersonal issues,
non-business topics.  We have had some "sharing circles" as well as
getting to know you games and team building play tasks that were pretty
fun.  We have a couple of teachers in the group who are expert at
facilitating the games and tasks so we got a great start.  After doing
these meetings for two years now they have settled into a very useful
format.  We call it "TING" exercise taught by our process mentors,
Kay and Floyd Tift who learned all about Group Work at Findhorn for 7

Ting is played by putting a cooking pot in the center of the circle. 
Note paper and pencils are passed around the circle and everyone who has
a topic writes it down and puts it in the pot.  Then the facilitator
picks one and reads it.   Anyone who has a comment can make the comment,
in what we call "popcorn" hands, no waiting for turns...just pop
out a response.  When enough has been said and you feel you've heard
enough, you can say "TING".  Generally when the majority express ting,
the next question is pulled from the pot and discussion goes on to the
new topic.  Often, the new topic is "ting-ed" quickly, so just the real
hot issues get the time they deserve.  It is a fascinating way to let the
hot issues bubble up.  And it provides a balance to the more formal
business meetings that are more structured and polite.  Ting is loose and
sometimes irreverent in its honesty.  Ting can say, "enough already!" in
a light hearted way.  The up front agreement is that each person takes
care of their own emotional needs, instead of expecting others to do
it...if feelings are hurt, there are agreements that make it easier to
express the hurt, without blame, using "I" statements.  All this takes
practice.  We're still learning.

It provides a container for issues that is safer than at a business
meeting...because we have ground rules like the "I" statements, asking
for what you want, letting your feet talk (an Open Space tactic) meaning:
if you are done you can leave, and in some instances, confidentiality can
be requested.  The ting topics can be anonymous if you choose. Or you can
own them, if it is comfortable.  

Attendance.  It fluctuates.  Sometimes it is high, sometimes low.  It's
all good.  The smaller circles have an intimacy that is useful....the
larger ones have more diverse views and often more humor. 

So our community life meetings have about an hour of Ting, and if there
are topics that need more in depth discussion we have an hour of Open
Space...but mostly we do a couple of hours of Ting and cover some amazing
territory.  We usually have a pot luck breakfast (Saturday mornings) and
then start with a Findhorn circle dance that we have been doing together
for 10 years.  And finish with a dance with the kids who come in from the
child care that is provided...we pay the sitters from homeowners dues,
usually pre-teens and teens who live here.   The kids that are now the
sitters were the toddlers and babies who my kids babysat years ago.  (My
son Alex, who is 17, is the "Coho Lan Guy" who has been sending posts to
the list about hooking up community computer networks...doesn't he sound
fabulously competent?  Alex and another adult member, Rich have done the
lions' share of all the connections for the community LAN.)

But I digress.  

to sum it up:  Sharing Circles can sometimes get so earnest and
heavy...add a little spice by having fun exercises like Ting....more
people will show up if there is Food, Fun and Free childcare.  And even
then, some people won't show up.  Oh well.  

Patty Mara
Tierra Nueva, central CA coast


On Mon, 18 Jun 2001 19:12:40 -0700 Becky Schaller
<bschaller [at]> writes:
> I'd like to know what kinds of experiences other communities have had 
> with
> sharing circles.  We seem to be having some problems getting very 
> far off
> the ground with them.  At a recent general meeting, we agreed to 
> have them
> about one Sunday a month.  Since  that time we've had one which I 
> thought
> went well even if it was a bit short.  It was on children's issues.  
>  We had
> at least one before we made the decision to have them monthly.  It 
> was on
> work participation issues.  I thought that went well also.  I am 
> writing
> because I think there is some resistance to sharing circles.  I 
> won't go
> into the details of what that resistance looks like, but unless 
> there is
> someone focused on these happening; various someones find reasons 
> not to
> have the sharing circles.  Attendance at both sharing circles was 
> relatively
> low, (10 and 12 people) which was discouraging for some. I thought 
> it was a
> decent beginning, but that discouragement certainly affects morale.  
> My
> thought is that if we just continue to have them, people will learn 
> that
> these circles can feel satisfying and perhaps people will look 
> forward to
> coming.  I don't see anyone trying to sabatage these circles.
> So I'm curious as to what kinds of experiences other communities 
> have had
> with sharing circles.   Has it been easy or difficult?   Was it hard 
> to get
> started?  
> Does the community as a whole decide what the topic will be?  If so, 
> how is
> the decision made?  Within a general meeting or another way?   Or do
> individuals within the community post a topic and date and then 
> welcome who
> ever shows up?  Or do you do something else?
> I appreciate any insights you can give me.
> Thanks,
> Becky Schaller
> Sonora Cohousing
> Tucson, Arizona
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