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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Clark

Different Ways to Circle

One of the great appeals of circling is its adaptability. In almost everything you do, a layer of circling can be added to increase mindfulness, relatefulness, and presence.

As we continue to experiment, we’ve found many ways to augment certain parts of the experience. Below is a list of those ways. It isn’t exhaustive, and it’s constantly changing — but hopefully, it can help the curious find new ways to do this central Relational Art.

explore new ways to circle

Circling Variants

1. Standard Circle​

2. Binary Circle

Set up two circles in the same space. Both circles use the same timer, and everyone interacts inside their circle more or less as usual.

The difference here is that you now have a single added choice: to get up and move to the other circle.

There is no limit to how many times this choice can be made — allowing individuals to move back and forth whenever that is their choice. (Though given principles around minding your impact and going slow, one imagines rapidly shifting between circles is pulling away from the present moment.)

3. Atomic Circle

Set up one large circle in the space. Begin the circle as normal. But now, people are able to carve off to other parts of the space — creating miniature circles of any size and shape that feels right to them.

You can always get up from the place you are and find a different context to circle in, with no real limits.

This adds an enormous dimension of choice. Make sure to go slow as you navigate these waters!

[Note: This is one of our all-time favorite circling variants.]

4. Bell Circle

This looks like your standard circle. But within the timeframe, you will ring bells at intervals. When the bells ring, members are called to return to their drop-in — whatever that might look like.

This works best when the overall timeframe is on the longer end. So if the timer for the circle is set for 60 minutes, you might have the bell ring at the 20 and 40-minute marks. (This can be done easily with the Insight Timer, an app that doesn’t pay us for promotion but should.)

We’ve found that this form allows us to return to silence, a precious part of any circle.

5. River Circle

“Going river” refers to an extremely receptive state of circling, one where the act of holding on to any thought or attaching to any event requires extreme effort — like having to swim upriver. It also opens up the overwhelming rush of the present moment, like standing in a river and having the moment flow into you.

River circling doesn’t have any change to the container beyond this intention: to move into as receptive a mode as you can in this moment.

6. Birthday Circle

Birthday circles focus on a single person (known as the circlee), where everyone else circles that person. This often looks like people asking the circlee questions. There can be some disclosures by others in the circle if it helps to get into the present moment inside the circlee.

7. Miles Davis Circle

This circle type names one person the Miles Davis, who gets to direct the group's focus. Once directed, circling proceeds as normal. The Miles Davis continues to move everyone's focus when they feel called to do so. 

The name refers to the way Miles Davis, among many other jazz band leaders, lead their band through musical motifs that can be riffed on and explored by others.

8. Journey Circle

You can circle in many different contexts, including closed-eye journeying (sometimes called astral projection).

People lay in a room and close their eyes. One person should be designated to lead first. Once everyone has dropped into journeying, the first leader begins to describe where they are. This will typically bring other people into this place.

This form of leading can be handed off at any time. Once everyone is ready, you can sit down inside the journey itself and circle.

Keep an Eye Here

This list continues to grow. Keep coming back to see things develop.

For more info on circling, check out these posts:

And check out this episode of the podcast:

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