Circling and surrendered leadership

I am back in Copenhagen after a 4-day circling training in Amsterdam with Circling Europe. It was the 2nd intensive of the SAS training where I am participating as a “training leader”. Before I arrived, I didn’t have many clear ideas about what the training would be like but had an intention to go deeper in my circling leadership and to see if I could touch on the grief that seemed so hard to access for me.

I had a lot of beautiful meetings and learning experiences during the four days but have only tried to describe the ones that in hindsight seems the most significant, in this blogpost.

Last night I cried…
I was lying in the lap of Marysia, a training assistant who has become very dear to me within the last year. I am not quite sure what happened, but the whole process felt like I had to teach myself how to cry again.

When I arrived to the training one of my intentions was to get in contact with my grief – something that I have found almost impossible for many years, except for sporadic and sudden bursts of sadness.

The hours before I had been feeling quite stuck and tired. Not really knowing where to move or what to do. The training was ending and while I had been in touch with sadness a couple of times I felt frustrated that I would be going home still feeling incapable of being with my grief. I now also see that I really wanted someone to help me but didn’t trust that most would be able to.

I softened a bit when Marysia sat down next to me. When I think of it now it seems like something in my forehead relaxed. And I asked (for help – something I almost never do) her if I could lie in her lap for a little while.

And when I was lying there I could feel into both the grief and my resistance to allow it. And then wave after wave started rolling over me. First small waves, just touching me a little bit while I still felt resistance. Then came a picture of myself as a young child, crying in a bush close to my childhood home after my brother’s funeral. I revealed this image to my friend and then the waves grew bigger.

Suddenly I was lying there crying my eyes out. First, I got the image that I had, as a small boy, decided to not cry or be sad again. And then, and that was the thing that really shook me, I realized that I have never allowed myself to feel the pain of my parents. It was like my world readjusted itself a bit – the way I saw my parents and our history changed in the light of all that grief, that I hadn’t allowed myself to see before.

Marysia didn’t say a thing. She just stayed with me, held me, made comforting sounds and allowed me to feel myself. Sitting in the plane to Copenhagen now I am tearing up a bit writing this, and I am feeling very grateful for having had this experience and for being held in it.

Standing in my power
Friday morning I had a powerful meeting with one of the circling leaders. We were talking about projects and events we were organizing when we dropped into sensing my fear of being fully present in my power and “light” and to let myself be seen in that space.

I noticed how often I pull back from what I create in the world, not allowing myself to be with the pride and joy of having done something amazing. I do however still feel a need for appreciation (although I often deny it) which often leaves me with a feeling of slight anger and resentment towards my surroundings for not recognizing me. An important realization was that my shyness and discomfort of being seen (in my power) is not something bad, but part of the power I hold – if I can surrender into it.

When this opened I had a strong feeling of light, energy and freedom and acted much more effortlessly in the space afterwards. Trusting more in myself.

There also seems to be a deeper story here. There is fear in me of what will happen in I embrace my power and it feels something like that I will then have to lose myself and become something else.


Surrendered leadership
I had many leadership challenges coming up for me during the four days.

On Friday after lunch I was feeling a bit annoyed that we again were late on starting the practice. Most of the participants seemed ready and was sitting in the room waiting for something to happen and I felt like I wanted to do start doing something in the space but didn’t know how to bring it. When the leaders (finally) came in and sat down I asked Sean the question “so what am I to do if I feel like beginning and you are late again” and then immediately felt the angry charge of the question. After some exploration of what was actually happening to me I started to feel into the desire to be able to bring my leadership and intentionality more in the space, but also a clear answer to my own question – that I have to reveal what is going on for me if I want something to happen.

Sean (one of the Circling Europe founders) led a session on “context setting in/through surrendered leadership” on Saturday. It was largely a practice space where the participants were encouraged to share their current state as an invitation for others to partake in the circling exploration on the (not at all dogmatic) formula “how is it to be you right now” + “what are you inviting people into”.

In the beginning of this session I felt really alive and excited about the possibility to leading from places, that often feel unpleasant for me like confusion, annoyance or frustration. But then I started to have some confusion about my role and if I should or shouldn’t bring myself in the space and from there I collapsed into a sleepy, distant state where I found it hard to be with what was going on. It was only afterwards (while talking to Sean) that I realized that this confusion could have been a valuable thing to bring into the circle and an interesting invitation.

Friday evening, I had a chat with Sean about bringing more embodiment into the practice and how that could be done. I was imagining a more flowy space with more movement, silence and touch inspired by contact improvisation. This turned into a general conversation about how to bring other (formal) practices into a circling space and how to do it and we discussed the opportunity for me to try it out Saturday morning with a “we would have to check in with the other leaders about this” and then left the talk there.

On Saturday morning I felt a lot of charge around this. I had been feeling unwilling to connect with Sean or the other leaders about it in the morning, as I was equally afraid of having my desire rejected and of suddenly having “made a thing” out of it. But when everyone had sat down in silence I felt a strong fear of now having brought my invitation. It was as if there would only be this one chance and if I didn’t bring it now, someone else would move the space in another direction and it would be impossible to do after that.

So I revealed that. And my uncertainty of making a directional invitation in the space. And my doubts of how to make it happen. And an image of rolling around on the floor and from there finding deep meetings. And the image of everyone being part of it, even though they weren’t rolling on the floor, but rather sitting with a feeling of disconnection or fear of the physicality. And from there it seemed to unfold quite effortlessly. A participant started rolling towards me on the floor and we started rolling around laughing. Another shared his fear of hurting himself on the floor, which made yet another bring mattresses. More people brought themselves in, I put on music and was in a wonderful flow for an hour or so. This is definitely one of the clearest experiences I have had of being surrendered in my leadership.

I felt very proud afterwards. And quite shy in receiving appreciation.

Reveal what is there
My whole experience of the training days was very much about going deeper into “revealing what is there in the moment”. This came up again and again in different ways:
– When being in the space trusting the hunches and desires and moving with them rather than judging them as strange. I had many experiences of wanting to move, touch or say something that I of different reasons didn’t allow myself to do, just to see one of the training leaders do exactly that a few moments later and feeling frustrated that I didn’t bring myself more into play.
– When giving feedback to trust that my experience is actually is what is worth sharing rather than falling into the trap of trying to give good evaluative feedback. Vulnerability and trust in the unknown seems to be the most important if I want to give good feedback on the leadership of others.
– Following subtle energies into the unknown by naming what is there even though I don’t know what it means.
– When I find it hard to be in my leadership I could become better at revealing that – everything can be brought in the service of connection.

A few days have past since the training and I still feel that I am more open to connection than ever before. Every meeting I have had since the training weekend has seemed to offer depth in a way that I haven’t experienced in my life before. It feels exciting, but I also notice a fear of “loosing it” again. However, I feel dedicated to stay in.

A thing that came up a lot during the training days was a longing to stop fighting. By that I mean leaving the trap of being a part in some battle between good and bad, right and wrong but rather bringing consciousness to what is instead. I am not completely sure what this means in practice, but it feels very alive in me and like something I wish to follow in the times to come.