Summer Circles: Moving Toward Greater Individual and Community Well-Being
With Leaf Seligman
"In this, the first of our summer circle series, we will share experiences of health and illness, of caring for others and being cared for. The circle offers each participant the chance to share, be heard and listen attentively. Together, we create a respectful space that fosters understanding and empathy, in line with Mariposa’s mission “to foster peace, global awareness, and understanding across cultural boundaries.”
Our stories matter. They connect us, strengthening the bonds of community and helping us to talk about issues that divide us politically.Leaf Seligman has extensive experience teaching and volunteering in prisons and jails since 1984 including a year of jail chaplaincy. She is an adjunct Professor at Keene State College and President of the Monadnock Restorative Community whose mission is to support women reintegrating into the community after incarceration. Leaf is the founder of Restorative Circles Services.
In today’s world of increasing conflict, Leaf Seligman’s work in bringing together a community for respectful dialogue and understanding is ever more important.
Peacemaking circles derive from the practices and tribal wisdom of Native Americans, where members of a community gather as equals to discuss matters of significance.
One of the most important contributions of Circles is the strengthened web of relationships among a group of people. It may be in a classroom, neighborhood, workplace, family of faith group. As people sit together, talk about values, share personal stories, and work through disagreements in an atmosphere of respect and caring, they weave strong cords of connection among themselves. Those connections increase the community’s capacity to take care of all its members and to find solutions when problems arise.
Kay Pranis, The Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach to Peacemaking.
Circles establish shared values and guidelines and utilize a talking piece to ensure that each participant has the opportunity to speak, be heard, and listen attentively. Circles model a cooperative way to relate respectfully with each other and the issues that challenge us. Because everyone has the opportunity to participate, circles ensure a diversity of perspectives and experience. When we share our stories, we can hear in each other the longing to belong, to matter, to feel safe, understood, and appreciated. Recognizing universal human feelings and needs allows us to build relationships on a foundation of connection and commonality. Circles open and close with a simple ceremony to remind us the time we devote to nurturing community is sacred.