As women come more into their own and find their voices, many are discovering community and solace in the ritual of circle gathering. Circle gatherings combine the sacred symbolism of the traditional circle with the collective power of sisterhood, evoking a deep sense of healing and wholeness in participants. To explain how and why they work, Jalaja Bonheim — founder of the Institute for Circlework — has written a new book, The Magic of Circlework: The Practice Women from Around the World Are Using to Heal and Empower Themselves.
Bonheim is a renowned expert who developed her approach to circle gathering over three decades ago. She’s trained hundreds of Circlework leaders and helped countless participants experience community and transformation. She conducts gatherings in several countries, including the Middle East, where her circles have famously brought Jewish and Palestinian women together for collective healing. While Circlework is equally effective for both men and women, Bonheim’s personal passion is healing and empowering women — and in this era of #timesup and #metoo, it’s never been more welcome, or important.
The Magic of Circlework takes a close look at the spiritual and communal aspects of these gatherings and sheds light on the life-changing experiences women undergo. As Bonheim explains, the practice is not tied to one single religion, but a deeper and unifying sense of spirit: it creates a generous space for people of any faith (or no faith at all) and brings everyone together in communion.
People usually experience Circlework as part of a workshop or retreat: the ritual has been included in every setting from churches to Yoga centers, book clubs to AA meetings, activist gatherings to therapy groups. Many are attracted to it as an opportunity to nourish their own spirits — Bonheim came to it as a way to overcome her own sense of isolation. But they also find something more: a profound new sense of their place in the world, and a heartfelt connection with each other that transcends any boundary.
The book offers vibrant testimony from Circlework participants. “What makes Circlework so powerful isn’t what fills the circle space,” says one. “It’s the emptiness, the removal of so much that is not necessary and not needed.… In the empty space, presence arises.” That sense of power and hope that can be felt again and again, since Circlework isn’t meant to be a onetime experience, but can be an ongoing practice – it becomes a way of looking at oneself and the world that can find its way into daily life.
Certainly, gathering in a circle links back to ancestral traditions. But there’s more to it, as the author notes: today, the circle serves as an apt and timely reminder that we are all equal. It’s an inherently democratic space without hierarchy — just different points along the circumference. As a result, prejudices crumble, and the “other” labels we often use to describe each other dissolve.
Circlework gatherings may not fix the world’s problems by themselves, but they offer a way to share, listen and hold each other in compassion, and for women especially, they’re a powerful and nurturing space. When the barriers break down, the oneness of humankind reveals itself — and our own healing can begin.
Learn more at the website Magic Of Circlework.