“One can, I think, listen someone into existence, [and] encourage a stronger self to emerge…” Mary Rose O’Reilly
This quote was posted on the wall during a seasonal Circle of Trust® at Bishop Booth Conference Center in Burlington, Vermont. Listening is such a powerful piece of each Circle of Trust experience I’ve been a part of over the past 17 years. We listen to each other. We don’t chit chat back and forth or make small talk. We give open-hearted listening and acceptance to each person participating in the circle. What a gift to offer and what a gift to receive!
Seventeen years ago, I was led to these retreats and I keep coming back, as I continue to explore who I am in this mysterious life. Here’s another wall quote that I love, from Thomas Merton: “The issues of life are not problems to solve, but mysteries to be entered.”
And this lovely retreat location on Eagle Bay, looking out over Lake Champlain, is a wonderful place to explore whichever of life’s mysteries I may find myself puzzling over or marveling at. The paths on the property that lead out in either direction are quite magical, winding their way over the roots of the ancient cedar trees that somehow grow strong and sure on the edges of the high cliffs of the bay. I love to find a spot high up, beside a cedar, and just listen to what the birds and the water and the trees have to say.
Equally magical are the Circles of Trust® themselves, and the way they offer a safe place for each participant to find their own voice and own way. I have watched transformations happen for myself and for fellow Courage members year after year.
These circles have helpd me find my way back into the joy and inspiration of being an elementary school teacher. As a ‘recovering shy person,’ I have found the courage and conviction to venture forth in new ways: as a leader in school initiatives that I value; in helping organize new endeavors in my community, including leading ‘courageous conversations,’ both formally and informally; and even in daring to raise my voice in singing with others, more boldly than I had ever considered possible for my ‘shy’ self.
Sitting in Circles of Trust has changed me and changed my life in so many ways. My personal voice has come alive, both in my work and beyond. And as I sit here on this cold Vermont afternoon, I can see the faces of so many of the people I’ve shared those circles with, I can hear their voices and I feel my spirit lifted and deeply connected with theirs. I think of the wall quotes again. I am profoundly grateful to explore this shared mystery of Courage work; and I know that we do indeed listen each other into existence and new-found strength.