When Tangles Touch Enough to Care
I am living in a tangle of stories.
We always do, of course, it’s just that sometimes we’re more aware of it than other times. I’m exquisitely aware at the moment, nearing exhaustion. Because not only is the tangle tightening, the layers of significance are clouding all around. I’m in a hot mess of human feeling, most of it not related to me at all. Even remotely. Yet it is all around me.
Two questions rise…
What in the tangle is touching enough of my own stuff that I’m this affected?
Is there a deeper thread I am to see, touch, receive, in this tangle?
The tangle is touching an intersection in which I live and breathe: exploratory/experimental circle-way community(ies) and established/establishment institutional bodies. Circle-way leans toward relationship, exploration, co-creation. Established institutions trundle along in processes, practices, and familiar norms. I feel like I can breathe in circle-way communities even as I serve in establishment communities. I thrive most at the intersection, in the both/and, and this tangle has stopped (for me) at this intersection. My institutional self asks my circle-way self:
What is the communal understanding of accountability, of redress in (inevitable) human rupture and conflict within Circle-Way communities?
So many in these circles have been deeply wounded by institutions unwilling or unable to “see them”, let alone offer equanimity in due process. So exploratory communities usually have little process in place for when things slip off the rails. There ARE no rails. Rails were used to exclude or even wound.
There are invitations though... There’s deepening trust. There’s willingness to get curious. There’s recognition that pain can simply be the start of new learning. There is staying while leaning into the discomfort. Loving first, listening deeply.
I think I find myself this engaged because not only do I care about the persons involved, I care most intensely about Circle. I've been in other organizational settings for decades, mostly feeling hopeless within them. So I am committed to finding repeatedly new ways to be more human with one another. Circle has been the avenue for that...and I'm not ready to relinquish its promise.
So I ironically find myself needing to say: we can learn from our elders in wisdom traditions, even as we’ve severed ourselves from ancestral lineages in other ways. i.e. We can learn from scriptural models (Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, what-have-you) without authorizing or abusing others with scripture itself. The traditions of the elders urge one-on-one communication, or then bring a witness, or then bring the dispute to the elders.
The practices need not be these, but Circle-Way communities need to develop minimal invitations to ‘best practices’ for redressing conflict, relational rupture. We need to practice trusting one another AND we need a minimal road-map of invitations for when things rupture. Because they always will.
A Circle-Way community I love does not seem to have this in place…yet. Be the change you wish to see in the world? Is this the leading...?
I think it is this deeper thread of Circle—its wisdom, its integrity, its practice—that has engaged me so fully in emotional details not of my life or my making. The reason Circle can challenge religious institutional life today for me is because NO ONE is in the center. The ineffable Sacred is in the Center, but NO ONE puts herself or her story in the center.
So what is a fledgling, eldering circle-way community to do, to be, when its pair of elders land in a rupture?
Who should hold the circle of the whole, so the rupture does not define the center?
How does the community hold the center for the pair in rupture, so each can get curious and both may learn from their drastically opposing stories?
And will the elders receive eldering from the community as a whole?
These are the questions that beckon me, now well over 500 words.