The Fireside Circle

Is it just me?  It seems like we are lost in an echo-chamber of conflict that creates unrest and exacerbates differences. The media have created a battleground that leaves everyone angry.

Free-floating anger…

  • can add to family drama and create social pressures
  • can make us defensive and fearful of speaking up
  • can keep us frustrated over the status quo
  • can make us feel powerless and alone
  • inflates the profits of advertisers and media platforms

Of course, we can isolate ourselves from the incoming, but then we would miss the positive connecting things, like family photos or pictures of the family wedding missed because we need to protect our health.  Touching lives is why we’re there.

All we want is a place to connect authentically.

Help me light a new flame

What I know is that we are an invisible community of heroes. By listening to each other, we can counteract free-floating anger. We can change the trajectory of how we deal with conflict.

There is an energy of healing grace between speaker and listener and we need a container for that to flourish. People need to feel good about people again.

I believe we are all in this together. I believe we need each other.

I received 90 minutes of being more comfortable than I could have imagined before going into the circle. I am usually not as open with people I don’t know. I assume that my story is not interesting or compelling to others even though I am interested in theirs.

The circle allowed me to set aside that assumption, my reservation, and its underlying fear and realize the deep connection I have with others.

It was a pleasure to be with women whose only agenda was to be in the moment. Though I have some of that in my life, there is not enough.

Kathleen Pietrasanta

Our brains are wired for story
What I learned from my years of serving as a Circle Keeper and leading talking circles in my home is that our stories shape how we see the world.

In the Fireside Circle, you can experience safety and acceptance. You can connect authentically. You can learn new perspectives.

My talking stick has made the rounds many times, both in-person and online. Here, we express what’s true without provoking an argument. We learn how others see things differently.

You can express yourself without judgment here.

When someone listens to our story, we are accepted and validated. Our importance is recognized. When we listen to another person telling their story, we learn their perspective, their history, their values.

Listening allows us to choose a different path.

In the Fireside Circle

  • Everyone is respected
  • Everyone gets a chance to talk without interruption
  • Everyone is equal in importance
  • You speak your truth by telling your stories
  • You are welcomed as a whole person, including your emotional and spiritual aspects

When we listen and hear the stories of other humans, we gain new perspectives. From new perspectives, we now have different choices.

Listening is difficult
Honestly, though, it’s hard to listen with an open mind. Really hard.

Here’s why: When we focus our attention and truly listen to another person, it makes us feel uncertain. We wonder, will they say something we disagree with?

At a deeper level, we question… are they really the person we think they are?  Will they judge ME?  When we listen deeply, we don’t know what to expect.  That’s uncertainty.

Uncertainty is painful.

Our primal instincts tell us that what we don’t know could kill us.  Eons of years in the struggle for human survival conditioned us to automatically feel anxious when facing uncertainty.

It’s easy to be anxious. We know what it’s like to feel anxious. Anxiety then becomes a way to gain certainty.

We crave certainty.

So, in an uncertain world, we increase anxiety in order to gain certainty!

Ancient answers
But this is not new. This deep need for certainty in a world filled with uncertainty has been our common experience since the dawn of time.

Our ancient ancestors managed uncertainty by gathering around a fire to share their stories. They learned from each other.  By the fire, culture, and what it means to be human, evolved.

Around the fire, we learned that connection to each other is how we survive.

We are all connected. All of our actions have an impact. Always.

Technology may be different, but our humanity is not. Our deepest wish is to be connected to others in a good way.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force….
When we are listened to,
It creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”
– Karl Menninger

An invitation
Fireside Circles are a sacred place to share ourselves and hear the truth of others.  The Circle Keeper ensures that everyone is safe to share what’s important and that what you say here will be held in confidence.

After lighting a candle and engaging in a short centering exercise to open the circle, we pass a talking piece.  The person holding the talking piece is the only person talking – everyone else listens.

It’s that simple.  And oh, so powerful.

Here’s what one recent participant said after she experienced her first online Fireside Circle:

I received many ahas and insights, conscious reminders
of the importance for Courage
and needing a sense of connectedness at this time in my life.
In our lives – for we are all connected.

I feel more complete and whole…
I feel seen, validated and appreciated.– Tracy Fortuny
Northwest Arkansas

We can create a better world

To evolve, we must include what has passed even while we transcend it. We must speak and acknowledge the truth of our personal past, and hear and comprehend the truth of another person.

Listening validates us as humans.

I believe our collective calling in this moment is to transform humanity.

“Connection has nothing to do with proximity and everything to do
with the collective capacity to create.”
– Priya Parker

Participants have been known to leave a Fireside Circle to join together and make a difference.  One group decided to volunteer together at the local food bank. One person heard a story that described the experience of someone new to our country, and she now mentors newly arrived international students.

Another person’s perspective reveals new choices.

Listening opens us.

Listening will change everything.