I had the chance to interview Jalaja Bonheim, one of the world’s foremost experts in the use of circle gatherings and author of The Magic of Circlework: The Practice Women from Around the World Are Using to Heal and Empower Themselves, which I reviewed on this site. Diverse groups of people are flocking to Circlework for the healing power it generates.
What led you to begin leading Circlework gatherings?
There was a certain way of being together that I longed for, but couldn’t find anywhere. I saw us hanging out together in sacred space, co-creating beauty, healing each other, dancing together, telling stories, laughing and crying. What I envisioned was healing without therapy and spirituality without religion.
Once I started leading circles, I realized that other people, especially women, were longing for the same thing. They too wanted a place where they felt really heard and seen and supported, and they too wanted to co-create sacred space without relying on any traditional belief system.
Who is drawn to Circlework?
Many of the women who come to my retreats and trainings are healers, therapists and spiritual seekers. They’re hungry for immersion in sacred space, and they know they need time to connect deeply with their own hearts and souls. Equally important is that they want the experience of true sisterhood — something that can be hard to find in our world.
Often, the women who come tell me they aren’t coming for their own sake alone. Sure, they want the healing and renewal they experience in the circle. But beyond that, they’re determined to bring what they learn in the circle back to their own families and communities.
In the circle, they experience a slower, more gentle way of being together and relating. Gradually, they learn to embody that new way in all aspects of their life. This doesn’t happen overnight. The first time they come, it’s like planting a seed. Over a period of years, that seed sprouts and grows in them until eventually, they feel like they are embodying the circle. Wherever they go, it goes with them, along with the centeredness and wholeness that the circle represents.
How does healing and empowerment happen in the circles?
Ultimately, it all comes down to love. Circlework empowers us to co-create fields of love. Within that field, healing happens very naturally and spontaneously. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Deep listening is very important. When a whole circle listens to a woman, in a supportive, open-hearted way, it allows her to rediscover herself in a whole new way.
Equally important is the spaciousness of the process. In our society, many people don’t have nearly enough time and space to attend to their own needs. Circlework helps them slow down, step out of mental business, and get aligned with their inner wisdom.
How have the gatherings turned conflict into understanding, such as in your work with Jewish and Palestinian women?
When we’re in conflict with someone, our tendency is often to avoid them. Many of the women I work with in the Middle East don’t really have close relationships with people from the “other” side. In the circle, they get to know each other as women, as mothers, and as human beings. They listen to the other’s stories, witness their suffering, and realize that what unites them is far more meaningful than what separates them. Of course, it helps that Circlework focuses a lot on establishing a strong heart connection between people. Once people’s hearts are open, they become far more able to accept differences of opinion.
Does someone need to experience a facilitated circle before they can benefit from its influence?
No. Circlework incorporates hundreds of useful exercises and practices that I regularly share in my newsletters and books, and that can help anyone stay centered and peaceful in the midst of life’s craziness.
However, I don’t recommend that people try to facilitate circles without prior experience and training. Circle leadership is a complex art. The circle is a lot like a power tool. To use it well, we need to understand how it works and what challenges we can expect to face.
Learn more at the author’s website.