What is Circling? Finding your Authentic Self

Have you ever felt awkward in a conversation? Not knowing what to say or how to create a connection that feels good to you?

Well, I certainly did. For a very long time, I did not know how to talk to people. How do you engage with someone in a meaningful and refreshing conversation, where you can really meet one another? I didn’t have the answer to this question and was yearning to be able to create this sort of contact. 

Then I found out about Circling, and have ever since transformed a great many awkward situations into profound moments of shared vulnerability in connection. Circling has opened me up to the very rich environment of authentic relating. I have cultivated more connection to myself, my feelings, my needs, and my desires and deepened the embodiment of who I am in connection with others.

So what is Circling?

In this article, I’m going to walk you through the core ideas of Circling, so that you too can start to experiment with your relational skills. And hopefully reap the incredible benefits of Authenticity, Self-Actualization, and Intimacy.

Learning effective interpersonal communication Skills

First and foremost, Circling is a training for a way of communicating and being that will:

  • Allow you to communicate your needs, wishes, and boundaries clearly and effectively
  • Let you find your authentic expression and claim your own space
  • Turn Conflict and Challenge into possibilities of growth and stronger connections
  • Deepen your understanding of yourself and others
  • Create more meaningful relationships 
  • Connect you to what matters most in your life
  • Allow you to let go of limiting behavior and take up new, healthy ways of being
  • Strengthen your Self-Responsibility
  • Show you ways of Self-Leadership, that allow you to co-create every situation you’re in

In Circling you can learn these skills through simply being yourself! Sounds incredible? It is!

Circling is very simple at its Core. Five principles are used as an orientation for how to communicate.

These five principles are:

  • Commitment to Connection
  • Owning your Experience
  • Staying at the Level of Sensations
  • Trusting your Experience
  • Being with the other in their World

To start, some exercises are most often done at the beginning of a Circling Event, which make these principles easy to understand and give you the possibility to experiment with them directly.

After these exercises, the ‘real’ Circling begins, where it’s either the group exploring the experience of one participant – called a Birthday-Circle – or the whole group exploring together what is alive in the space – called a Surrendered Leadership Circle.


Birthday Circling

A Birthday Circle is when one Participant receives the whole attention of the group for a set amount of time. The person receiving this attention – the ‘Birthday-Child’ or Circlee – can relax into whatever is happening for them and observe and explore how it is to be in connection to the group and individuals. The people sitting in the group are sharing what is happening in them in relation to the Circlee, and what they are observing in the Circlee. There’s nothing to be achieved or done. The Circle is simply an exploration of what is happening at the moment, of what is alive in the space right now. For the Birthday Child, this allows having a clearly defined space just for themselves, where they can explore the connection with others without having to ‘fight’ for attention. 
For the participants in the group, it’s a very good training to explore the world of another, and discerning between their ‘own stuff’ and things that are happening in the connection with this person.

Surrendered Leadership

Surrendered Leadership Circling is the paradoxical experience of being fully invested in your own subjective experience, while at the same time being a part of the bigger context of the group. Unlike in a Birthday-Circling, there is no defined point of focus. Where the focus goes in the group is defined by the natural and spontaneous movement of attention. Every participant is invited to share where his attention is going and following his impulses. Through the five principles of Circling a group coherence is forming, where everyone starts to experience themselves as a vital part of the group, while at the same time becoming a deeper expression of their authenticity and integrity.

If you’ve never experienced Circling it’s really hard to imagine what it looks like and how it is to experience it.
Even though I can give you an overview in this article and describe the structure and the benefits of it, you probably still wont get the full picture. It’s like trying to describe what it’s like to see a movie, if you’ve never been to the cinema. You have to go there and experience it yourself to fully get it.

That’s why I strongly recommend going to a Circling Introduction Event! You can find one nearby you, or you can attend one online! Or attend one of my Workshops or book a Circling-Session with me!

This is what you can experience in a Workshop or Session:

The Benefits of Circling – What you can get

Because of the quality of embracing what is, rather than trying to get somewhere else, Circling allows for a deep realization of being ok as you are. Often what creates the feeling of being awkward or not ok in a social environment is when your internal experience and integrity is not matching up with what you see is happening around you.

Imagine being in a place where everybody is hiding their vulnerability. You can still feel your vulnerability but cannot see how others are vulnerable as well. So your inner world and the outer world do not match and you must either play by the rules of the outer world and let your integrity down or stick with your inner world and potentially experience alienation from the others. 

In Circling, everybody is invited to be fully themselves and authentically share what is happening within. So you can start seeing the people around you for who they are. Your internal readout of people and how they act is starting to align. You can start to trust your perception of yourself and others again. And through this a deep trust and relaxation into who you are in every moment become possible.

At the same time, you receive direct feedback on how you are being perceived by others. You are being seen and acknowledged for who you are in a safe space of exploration. This in itself is already a deeply touching experience to have! And it can show you your blind spots…

Blind spots are where your perception of yourself and the perception others have of you don’t match up. It’s where you think about yourself in a certain way but act and appear differently in the outside world. When someone authentically shares the impact you are having on them, they give you the possibility to see yourself in a different light. This direct and constructive feedback is priceless for your personal growth and will shed a light on the challenges you have in connection with other people. 

A deep acceptance and affection can grow between people by sharing the journey of self-exploration and moving through the challenges of connection together. Because we can realize our authentic self in connection with others and experience that it is welcomed and wanted, we grow our capacity to be welcoming and inclusive of others.

Relationships are central to our experience as human beings. How we relate to ourselves, others and the world is what makes up our daily experience of life. 
In Circling we make relating the center of attention and reveal the richness of the connection to others. By allowing yourself to be moved by the connection with others you can reconnect to what is truly important for you. What is it that moves you in your life? What feels meaningful and important to you?
Circling can connect you directly to this deep inquiry into your purpose and fulfillment!

The Core Values of Circling

Effective Communication: Circling focuses on the Connection between people: What is happening in the relationship between you and me? What is the impact I’m having on you? What’s the impact you’re having on me? 
What is happening in the connection is then explored in the present moment. Everybody is invited to describe their own experience while observing what is happening within them and in the group. Everybody takes full responsibility for their experience and showing up in the group with whatever is going on for them. Everything alive and important in the present moment can be shared – thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, assumptions, judgments, wants, and needs. 

Every communication can be seen as a person sharing their experience and does not have to be deciphered for hidden expectations, agenda, needs, etc. This allows for a very clear and direct way of interacting.

Authenticity in Connection: Everybody is invited to express themselves authentically while being in connection with the bigger context of the group. This means that I check in with myself and observe what is really happening in me – reactions or impulses – instead of trying to uphold a certain image of myself, or create a certain reaction in others.

Self-Empowerment and -Responsibility: Circling gives you the perfect playing field to explore ways of leading yourself and take responsibility for your own experience. Empowerment happens because you are taken seriously as who you are, and there’s no one trying to ‘help’ or change you, or telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. You are steering your ship. 

Presence: The focus is on the Here and Now and what is moving in the space. Nothing needs to be changed or made to happen. It’s either witnessing what is already happening or actively embodying what is moving you.

Holistic Intelligence: Circling actively invites the intelligence of feelings and the body. It is not a practice of self-reflection and analyzing but one of actively engaging the present moment with all that we are. We are including what our body tells us, what our feelings have to say and what the mind is reading into the situation, while at the same time not identifying with any of these different viewpoints. This allows for states and experiences where we can see and recognize the automated patterns of our thinking, feeling, and acting. 

Integral Leadership – Qualities of the modern Wizard

Circling is a practice of integral Leadership, that can support you in the integral qualities of Waking Up, Growing Up, Cleaning Up, and Showing Up.

It speaks to all the levels of development and can be seen as a sort of lubricant for your personal growth through – and integration of – the different levels.

If you want to learn more about levels of development and Integral, start here: What is Integral? (Coming soon)

Waking Up: Circling can open you up to various state experiences, which can show you realities beyond personal perception. Transpersonal states, witnessing group intelligence and energy movement, etc. are all experiences that can be had in Circling spaces. 

Growing Up: Realizing blind spots, discover projections, and releasing deep-seated identities is all supported by the context of Circling. Through this practice, you can become a more mature and responsible being. And even re-integrate aspects of yourself, that were running unnoticed before. 

Cleaning Up: Becoming able to take full ownership of your own experience and communicating your needs, desires, and boundaries clearly with other beings. This allows for a good resolution of almost any given situation. You start to create clear and clean environments of respect and trust through effective communication and responsible attitudes. 

Showing Up: Standing strong for what truly matters to you and humankind. Showing up in every aspect of your life in your Authenticity and Integrity. Circling supports this movement by actively encouraging trusting your integrity and taking a stand for what you see as important. You will start acting naturally on what you see is needed. 

What makes Circling different from other Practices?

When comparing Circling to other modalities, there are two clear distinctions we can make.

Circling is not a Therapy and comparing it to therapies can shed some light on the difference.

Most therapies focus on a problem or a wish the client has and are then working on finding out what is in the way of this wish or the resolution of this problem. 

In Circling the focus is on the aliveness, intimacy, and connection that is available in the Now. 

Instead of separating the less functional aspects of oneself and working on those, Circling sees every participant as an evolving wholeness. We then explore how you as a Wholeness perceive yourself and interact with others. Your wishes and problems are still included but are looked at as phenomena within your wholeness, with which we can be present and compassionate. Change and Transformation happen through fully seeing, feeling, and being with aspects of yourself that you perceived as problematic, recognizing the purpose and the beauty of these parts of you. 

In this, Circling is a practice of the ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change’, that says: ‘…change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is — to be fully invested in his current positions. By rejecting the role of change agent, we make meaningful and orderly change possible.’ Read more on the Paradoxical Theory of Change here

The second clear distinction we can make is that Circling focuses on the Connection, instead of focusing solely on the experience of an individual’s inner world

The Experience of any one participant is included and empowered. But instead of seeing each participant as a closed system, that functions in itself, Circling puts more emphasis on the interaction with others and how this influences your system. 

This emphasis allows for a very deep group coherence to form when everyone allows him-/herself to acknowledge how they each influence and impact one another. 

If for example, I’d share feeling anxiety within another group, this could easily be made ‘my thing’, which has nothing to do with the experience of the others in the group. This ‘making it personal’ makes it impossible for my individual experience to impact the group and others and possibly creating positive change for everyone. 

In Circling, my personal experience of anxiety would be explored as a group phenomenon. The other participants would observe for themselves how they react towards my fear: Does it resonate? Is there a resistance towards this fear? Do I want to change it? Does it make sense to me? 

Like this, instead of becoming an agent of isolation and separation, everything we share in Circling becomes an agent of more connection and resonance with the group. 

The MMA of Personal Growth and Self-Actualization

As you can see from this article, Circling is somewhat like a relational MMA, where different techniques come together and enrich one another.

Non-violent communication, Mindfulness, the integration of blind spots, Self-Responsibility, Individuation and Actualization, and Integral Leadership all flow into this practice and find a beautiful expression through it.

An expression that can become second nature and start to influence and enhance your everyday activity!

To me personally, Circling feels like the most natural way of being. 
Trusting myself, allowing life to fully flow through me, seeing myself as an ongoing process.

Ever since I came across Circling and have been practicing the skills, my relationships have deepened. So has my relaxation into who I truly am, while I realize this from moment to moment. My life has become more meaningful. I’m acting on my authentic impulses and going for what I truly want. I’m working towards a future, that I want to see for myself and all humankind!
And I’m hitting that sweet spot, where I’m at the right place in the right time, way more often!

If you read so far, the time is probably right for you to dive into this adventure! Circling might be the key to unlock the great potential hidden within you!

And i’d love to see you find it, embody and live it!

Do you have thoughts on Circling and what you just read? Questions, Opinions, Feedback?
Please leave a comment down below to let me know what’s happenig for you! 😉
I’d love to get back to you!


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