Circles of Trust

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“Circles of Trust Touchstones”
by Parker Palmer

The following “Touchstones” were adapted from Parker Palmer’s Touchstones for Circles of Trust. More information can be found in his book “A Hidden Wholeness,” or at The Center for Courage and Renewal: Palmer’s methodology provides an an extremely important grounding for InterSpiritual dialog.

  • Extend and receive welcome. People learn best in hospitable spaces. In this circle, wesupport each other’s learning by giving and receiving hospitality
  • Be present as fully as possible. Be here with your doubts, fears and failings as well as your convictions, joys, and successes, your listening as well as your speaking.
  • What is offered in the circle is by invitation, not demand. This is not a “share or die” event! During this time, do whatever your soul calls for, and know that you do it with our support. Your soul knows your needs better than we do.
  • Speak your truth in ways that respect other people’s truth. Our views of reality may differ, but speaking one’s truth in a circle of trust does not mean interpreting, correcting, or debating what others say. Speak from your center to the center of the circle, using “I” statements, trusting people to do their own sifting and winnowing.
  • No fixing, no saving, no advising, and no setting each other straight. This is one of the hardest guidelines for those of us in the helping professions. But it is one of the most vital rules if we wish to make a space that welcomes soul, the inner teacher.
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel, corrections. With such questions, we help hear each other into deeper speech.
  • When the going gets rough, turn to wonder. If you feel judgmental, or defensive, ask yourself, “I wonder what brought her to this belief?” or “I wonder what he’s feeling right now?” or “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself?” Set aside judgment to listen to others—and to yourself—more deeply.
  • Attend to your own inner teacher. We learn from others, of course. But as we explore poems, stories, questions, and silence in a circle of trust, we have a special opportunity to learn from within. So pay close attention to your own reactions and responses, to your most important teacher.
  • Trust and learn from the silence. Silence is a gift in our noisy world, and a way of knowing in itself. Treat silence as a member of the group. After someone has spoken, take time to reflect without immediately filling the space with words.
  • Observe deep confidentiality. Trust comes from knowing that group members honor confidences and take seriously the ethics of privacy and discretion.
  • Know that it’s possible to leave the circle with whatever it was that you needed when you arrived. Know that the seeds planted here can keep growing in the days ahe

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