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Circle forming

VOL 1

 

Contents

 
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HEVRUTA

FIND YOUR COLLABORATOR

Volume 1, Section 1

 
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The Jewish tradition offers a stellar partnership model for big dreaming and effective acting: it’s called hevruta. The root of the Hebrew word hevruta is haver, “friend.” Traditionally, Jewish text study is undertaken with a partner, a hevruta — someone who becomes a deep spiritual comrade. In the space between two hevrutot (plural), a sacred and special energy arises, unlocking creativity and insight one person couldn’t access alone.  

Model what it looks like for women to work in solidarity and intention. Pick a partner and develop a Well Circle kickoff team that will start this community with good thought and care.

The power of thought partnership and creative synergy is real; the ideas and energy of two will broaden the possibilities for what your Circle can be. You and your hevruta can problem-solve together and share in the responsibilities of getting your Circle going. When it’s time to invite potential members, you can draw from your respective communities to make an interesting, powerful collective. 

Working in a partnership will also model shared leadership for your Circle. If you set this piece of culture early, you can build a vibrant, collaboration-oriented crew. Lastly, working with a hevruta can go a long way in cutting out unnecessary worry and self-doubt. A sister who’s got your back will help you keep perspective, reminding you how awesome and beautiful you are throughout the process. We know you’ll do the same for her.

 

Hevruta Guidelines

Use these prompts as a guide. Turn them over in your head on your morning commute. Or better yet, sit down to answer in some freewrites. 

  • Who is a woman in my life I’d feel excited to learn and grow with? 
  • Who is a woman in my life I respect and who others respect? 
  • Who is a woman who knows how to get sh*t done, whom I can trust? 
  • Who is a woman who could use the support of a Circle right now
  • and would want to go all in? 
  • Who is a woman who has complementary skillsets to mine, is dialed into different communities, has a different leadership style, and who would
  • be fun to get to know?
 
 
 
 
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Kavanah

Connecting with Personal Intention

Volume 1, Section 2

 
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Creating a community takes takes time, grace, and intention. It’s not always easy, but being intentional from the start goes a long way.

In Hebrew, the world kavanah means “intention.” Kavanot (plural) help us set the course of our lives, work, and relationships with compassion and strength. If you take a little time now to put some good, deep thinking towards the kavanah for your Well Circle, it will grow into a special, holy, inspiring space that will nourish everyone who belongs to it month after month. 

The clearer you can get on the kavanah of your Circle, the more compelling you’ll sound when you ask women to join. 

Let’s start with some the basic intentions we already know: 

  • This group operates according to a rotating leadership model.
  • This is a group for those who identify as women and/or those for whom inhabiting a biologically female body factors into their lived experience. 
  • Well Circles meet once per month. 
  • Well Circles build off the ancient Jewish ritual of Rosh Chodesh
  • A Well Circle is a space for women to explore their bodies, Jewish ritual, and creative spiritual practices.
 

Walking to the Well

Questions for Finding Direction

The questions below are here to help you (and your hevruta, if you have one) find your Well Circle’s kavanah. You can simply mull over these prompts, or you might write stream-of-conscious responses to them. If you have a hevruta, make time to meet after you’ve each considered these questions to continue pathfinding together.

  • What will this Circle fulfill that I’m yearning for?
  • What am I seeking from the group?
  • What are three to five strengths of mine that will help make this Circle happen?
  • What skills, gifts, or energies can I bring to a Circle? 
  • What does commitment to the Circle look like to me?
  • What does a “successful” Circle look like to me? 
  • What are the things I’m looking to create through this Circle?
 

What is your initial kavanah / intention for this Circle?

Reminder: the kavanah will change once you have your people assembled!

Craft this in one to three sentences.

 
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Invitation

things to think about as you invite

Volume 1, Section 3

 
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Circle Size

Community organizing operates on the “Law of Halves”: Reach out to at least double the number of people you would like to show up. As you recruit women to your Circle, keep in mind the Law of Halves. 

Because you’re going to be very intentional and personal with your invitations, you may wind up with a slightly higher Yes rate than one half. But you’ll definitely get a handful of people who say No. And that’s okay. As a guide, we think 8 to 12 women is the sweet spot for a Well Circle. But anywhere between 5 to 15 members can work well.

While we’re here, some additional thoughts on size: 

  • The smaller the group, the more the shared leadership there can be, not to mention accountability and support. A small Circle also means more flexibility, less likelihood of someone falling through the cracks, and easier coordination of special occasions or outings/field trips. 
  • The larger the group, the more diversity you’ll have. 
  • The larger the group, the more responsibility you’ll carry as a convener for the first few months. How much responsibility can you realistically take on? 
  • The more people in your Circle, the trickier the scheduling becomes. If you have more than eight women, you won’t have every single person at every single gathering. If your group is larger, decide how many women must be able to come for your Circle to happen. (We recommend at least five.)
  • If you have more than 12 women in your Circle, make sure some months feature paired leaders (there are only 12 months on the Hebrew calendar): that way, everyone has a chance to lead. 
 

Whom to Invite

You’ve got a hevruta, solid kavanah, and a target number of women in mind...so which women should you actually invite? How do you ensure you’re inviting women who add to the magic of a good group dynamic? What makes a Circle more than a friend group? 

In their excellent book Sacred Circles, Robin Deen Carnes and Sally Craig list a few key considerations. We’ve adapted their thoughts here: 

1 . Glittering Difference  

Your Circle provides an opportunity to bring together women of different professions, hometowns, class backgrounds, personalities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, physical abilities, and sexual orientations. You may very well end up inviting women who aren’t Jewish. Well Circles can even be multi-generational; the wisdom of elders (and juniors) is potent. Why not mix it up? 

Invite women to your Well Circle who come from different communities than your main one. These women can become your Well Circle friends, a special and unique relationship in and of itself. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also invite a few super-dear ones in too; creating a Well Circle is about bringing together a group of individuals who are tuned to the same community frequency, whether you’ve been friends since kindergarten or just met last week.

2 . No Obligatory Invitations

Relationships are, by their very nature, interconnected. Inviting one woman to your Circle may get you feeling like you “have to” invite another woman too — maybe her roommate or a mutual close friend. But the truth is, you’re not obligated to ask anyone to join. Talk it out with your hevruta and sit with the questions you have about inclusivity and exclusivity. Come to a compassionate, adult decision you feel solid about and ask the women it feels truly right to ask.

 

Invite List, Rough Draft

Based on your kavanah for your Circle, what are the qualities and characteristics you’re looking for in potential members of your Well Circle? For inspiration, look back at your hopes for a hevruta.

As you get ready to make a preliminary list, consider the different qualities we each encompass and consider how these might bring light and richness to your Circle

You might think of the following: 

 

Personality traits

(ex. Observant, soft-spoken, incisive.)

Lifestage

(ex. Just out of graduate school and newly moved to town.)

 
 

Community Involvement

(ex. Deep into the rock climbing community; spends time with her friends from college.)

Special things each woman might add to this Circle

(ex. Ann is a little older than the rest of my friends. Has a three year-old and a career as a Nurse Practitioner. Has great perspective on balancing and building partnership, career, and motherhood.) 

 

Separately, make a long list of women you may want to invite to your Circle. Then narrow it down to women who possess the qualities you’re looking for. 

This is the list you want to bring to your hevruta. If there’s overlap between your two lists, great! If you’re drawing from different communities, have a discussion about your selections and work together to create an invite list with people from both. This conversation will naturally lead you to talk about Circle size too.  

 

LOOKING FOR A LITTLE MORE GUIDANCE?

Fill out the form we created for just this occasion.

 
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Join My Circle

Making a Powerful Ask

Volume 1, Section 4

 
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So, actually asking. What’s the best way? We’re going to share two models, neither one better than the other, each offering different benefits and drawbacks. 

Option 1: You Ask

  1. The woman (or women) who initially thought to start the Circle makes the asks. Call or write a personal email to each woman on the list, talking about the vision for starting a Circle and personally inviting each woman to join. 

  2. Once you have your Yeses, follow up with a group email including everyone in the “To” field, referencing the personal call/email they each received from you, and asking for input on a first meeting date. That email should include some heartfelt reasons why you (and your hevruta) are excited to make this Circle happen, and how pleased and excited you are to be gathering these powerful women together. 

    P.S.: This message is a good spot for straightforward, genuine hype.

 

Pros: Faster, more efficient. 

Cons: More work for you (and your hevruta). 

 
 

Option 2: A Core Group Asks 

  1. Circle Seeders (you, your hevruta) call or email two to three women you’re fairly certain would be excited to be a part of a Circle. Talk with each woman about the idea. Say how excited you are about it, but explain that it’s really only in the baby stages, and you want these women specifically to join you to make it really happen.

  2. Host a pre-Circle gathering with this small group (3 to 5 women). Spend time checking in. As a group, do some visioning to further refine your Circle’s kavanot. From there, draw up a list of additional women your group would like to invite to your Circle. Close your pre-Circle gathering by identifying which invitees each woman will reach out to, and by when. Aim to have your first gathering in two months, leaving yourself time time to for outreach and Circle preparation. Like finding a hevruta, assembling a small group of Circle Seeders is a great way to build shared leadership from the start.

 

Pros: More collaborative, higher likelihood for shared leadership.

 

Cons: Slower due to group logistics, harder to keep track of responses and progress.

 
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Flexible First Stages

Volume 1, Section 5

 
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At some point, you’ll get your yeses, and your Circle will come together for the first time. After your first meeting, follow up with people who said they’d come but didn’t. See if there’s some way to make the Circle more accessible, and let them know they’re still invited to come to the next one if they want.

The first few gatherings of your Circle are both malleable and sacred. If your group shrunk at the second gathering and the group has agreed that you’d like more members than you have now, consider making a collective push as a Circle to invite a few more women to the third gathering. Doing this together is a great way to rally current Well Circle members to take ownership by bringing in a few of their own people.

 
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Ways To Yes

THE CHALLENGES OF JOINING AND WAYS TO YES

Volume 1, Section 6

 
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We’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t feel like they’re already too busy for one more thing in their lives. Committing to something reoccurring far out into the future can feel stressful and unappealing; the prospect can be daunting. It may even cause women you invite to decline your invitation, even if they’d actually deeply love being part of a Well Circle. It’s not a light ask, and sustainable community organizing takes care. 

Keeping reading for ways to make a yes more likely when you ask “Will you join my Circle?”

Make It Personal

Make every woman you invite feel like she matters. Why specifically are you asking her? Identify the particular reasons you want this woman to join you. Does she embody a quality you admire? Are you hoping to become closer to her? Say so;  it will make her feel seen and valued. Go back and consult your notes from the last exercise to help you craft your ask. Also, think about a time when you were asked to join a group. What compelled you to say yes?

 

 

Make It Matter

As you reach out, connecting your ask to each woman’s personal story can help her see why this Circle would be a beautiful opportunity for her right now. Before you reach out to each woman, think about the question, Why do I think joining this Circle will make a difference for this woman? 

 

 

 

Pour In Your Kavanah 

Include your kavanah in the email and tap into your bravery for putting your desires out into the world. Your initial excitement is part of what will make this Circle real. You’re the prophetess, someone who has a vision for something people can’t yet imagine for themselves, and the power to express that vision compellingly. In the context of your Circle, help women see that what you want to build will be a unique and powerful space with shared leadership, ritual, and deep connection to self and others. Choose words that make the formation of this new Circle epic and special. Help each woman understand that you need her to make the magic happen.

 
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Potential Responses

to the Question “Join my Well Circle”

Volume 1, Section 7

 
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The next step in the process of forming a Well Circle is a big one. It’s time to invite women into the Circle. It can feel vulnerable and daunting to put yourself out there and make the Ask. But as we like to say around here in At The Well-speak, you’re walking the walk. 

That’s the kind of world we — and you — are helping to build: one where we lead courageously, with our whole hearts. In anticipation of sending the invitations, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Indifference

If you get radio silence in response to your invitation, it’s probably not personal; more likely than not, the culprit is email overwhelm. People love getting personal snail mail, and the same holds true for email. A thoughtful, non-junky, crafted-just-for-you email can be a very compelling thing. So, when you make your asks, consider writing up a general message that you subsequently tailor specifically to each recipient/Well Circle invitee.

Skepticism

If some people are skeptical or pushy or respond with a Why are you doing this? vibe, it might just mean they could actually really use a Circle and would contribute a lot to the dynamic. Consider whether this is the case, and if it might be worth doing the extra work to get them in. On the other hand, it could mean that they’re not open to the transformative power this group will offer, and their hesitation will weigh the Circle down.

Over-Enthusiasm

If some people eat up everything you share about your vision for a Circle, this could mean they’re the perfect candidate ever for this Circle. Or, it could mean that might over-rely on it for emotional support. If you’re feeling  a little weird about the response, talk it over with your hevruta or a trusted friend and advisor to get their take. 

We’re also very pro-compassionate, direct, and open communication. If you’re concerned, give the person a call and make a time to meet. Ask her to tell you more about her motivations for wanting to be part of this Circle. If you still have reservations, this would be a good time to share them openly, honestly, and with abundant kindness. 

These are three ways we’re flagging about how your invitation might be received, but there are certainly many more ways than this. A few words to the wise (that’s you!) about inviting:  

Trust your gut and tap the women who feel right.

Alright! You’re ready. In creating your Well Circle, you’re joining a movement to create empowered, enlivened, intentional spaces where women gather all over the world, a global network. 

Cheers to you, good luck, you got this. 

 
 
 
 
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Mazal tov!

You made it to the end of volume 1.

 

Download Volume 1:

 

This work is the product of many minds and influences. As they say, it’s a deep well. To find out what keeps us learning, reflecting, and inspired, check out Packet 7: Resources + References. And, for a daily dose of wellness and wisdom, follow At The Well on Instagram and Facebook.