OF A WELL CIRCLE
Volume 2, Section 1
Establishing group agreements is a powerful way to collectively consent to cultural norms that bring out the best in each member and invite transformative connection. Below are a few key principles held by powerful Circles. We suggest sharing these group agreements at your first or second meeting and asking the group if they have any more they’d like to add.
To learn more about positive group practices, check out some of the resources collected in Packet 7: References + Resources.
ONE WOMAN, ONE MIC
When one woman is speaking, she has the stage; everyone else listens. No interruptions.
One Woman, One Mic ensures we have sacred time to share our own truths.
Avoid generalizations like People feel angry when… or You feel angry when. Instead, try I feel angry when… Your Well Circle is a space to step into personal power.
“I” Statements ensure that you’re speaking from your own experience. No need to hide behind blanket statements.
PATIENT + MINDFUL LISTENING
Listen deeply and with loving attention when a member of your Well Circle is speaking. Simply listening actively is a powerful way to offer crucial support and to help the speaker combat feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
COMMUNAL LEADERSHIP + OWNERSHIP
You’ll own and share tasks with the women in your group, from cleaning up after a meeting, to keeping conversations active, to facilitating meetings on a rotating basis. This shared accountability allows you to take responsibility for the wellness of your Circle.
An essential part of that process is giving every woman the chance to step up as a leader. Shared leadership helps a group to experience diverse facilitation styles and energies, while allowing women to take on roles — as leaders or as participants — that they don’t usually take on. These are ideas we’ll explore more deeply in Packet 3: Circle Leadership.
What’s learned here leaves here; what’s said here stays here.
Well Circles are all about growth and trust. Both can happen when we respect what we tell each other in confidence.
A breach in trust can be one of the hardest things for a group to bounce back from. To sidestep this completely avoidable mess, make an effort from day one to develop a culture of honesty and confidentiality in your Circle. If you do hear something you feel compelled to discuss outside of your Circle with others, ask permission, or take extra care to remove any identifying details or sensitive information.
If you do run into trouble, look at our Packet 4: Circle Upkeep for guidance on how to deal with conflict, dissent, and other challenges that may arise in the life of a Well Circle.
PERSONAL + COLLECTIVE REFLECTION
Whether you’re hosting or attending your Circle’s next meeting, take a moment to reflect and prepare. Ask yourself: “What do I need to do to fully show up tonight?” Another way to ask that question might be: “What would help me feel the most energized, tranquil, and focused?”
Well Circles are spaces where learning and personal growth bring us closer to the humans we want to become. It’s only possible when we show up committed to self-awareness.
It’s also crucial to periodically check in about group dynamics. Are we living up to the commitments we made when we started the Circle? Which ones have we let slide? Why?
Setting aside one Circle meeting a year for an annual reflection can be a powerful practice. It helps Circles celebrate what’s working and shift dynamics that don’t serve the group.
At minimum, a Well Circle calls for a group to commit to meeting on a monthly basis, and to being accountable to each other when life gets in the way and we inevitably begin to feel torn about showing up.
Being committed to your Circle means being in touch if a conflict comes up — it will. When we dedicate ourselves to a pursuit, it often blossoms into something even more beautiful: devotion. The continuation of each Circle depends on the explicit commitment of the women who opt in.
Planning A Meeting
Of Your Well Circle
Volume 2, Section 2
Choosing A Theme
The months of the Hebrew calendar are rich in themes, around which you can design the Well Circle meeting for each new moon. A theme can be a word, a phrase, or a question. There are so many options, sometimes it can feel hard to know where to start.
Once you have one to three themes that excite you, ask yourself: Does the theme also resonate with the women in my Circle? Will it nurture relationships amongst the women in my Circle?
It’s gotta work both ways; if you bring something to your Circle only because you need it and without consideration for how others will receive it, it can alienate people. On the other hand, if you bring something to the Circle thinking I know the women in my Circle would love this, so we’ll do it even though I don’t really care about it, your own heart won’t be in it and you’ll disconnect yourself from authentic leadership.
Choosing (At Least) One Activity
Keep your vision high-level for now; other packets offer insights on how to plan activities for a meeting (Packet 3: Circle Leadership and Packet 5: Modalities) and what you might do (Packet 6: Ritual). If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try this free write exercise to set you on the path to a beautifully designed Well Circle meeting. This exercise will help you think through themes and possibly spark ideas for specific activities to share with your group.
Free Write Exercise
Find a comfortable spot where your heart can open and your mind can expand. Spend 10 to 30 minutes considering or freewriting in response to the questions below:
- What about this Jewish month stands out or resonates? (For ideas, check out the month’s Moon Manual!)
What about this Jewish month makes me uncomfortable or brings up more questions?
What is my body feeling and why? Lately, what has my body yearned for?
What’s been happening in the world that’s weighing on me and people I love?
What has happened in my life recently that I would like to mark?
Consider the events often ritually recognized (births, bat mitzvahs, marriages) as well as all of the things that happen that we don’t have rituals for (friendship milestones, career transitions, relationship endings).
How would a ritual for one of these non-traditional milestones look?
YOUR CIRCLE MEETING SPACE
Volume 2, Section 3
Location, location, location.
There are two ways to approach a meeting spot: pick a regular, centralized location that works for everyone. Or, have the location rotate through Circle members’ homes in parallel with the rotating leadership. Whichever space you use, make sure it’s possible to make it private and interruption-free from roommates, partners, kids, couchsurfers, and pets.
(Re)arranging your space to set the vibe for your meeting makes all the difference. As you get ready to host your Well Circle, here are some space-related thoughts to keep in mind:
Do you have a space (your living room is probably perfect, but any spacious room in your house will do) where everyone can sit in a circle, either on the floor or in comfy chairs? Sitting at equal height and in a circle models that we’re all coming to this space as equals. Circles embody balance, cycles, and resilience. They also allow everyone to see each other around the space.
Pro-tip: As you set up, make sure there are enough spots for everyone you’re expecting. If someone comes in and there isn’t a spot for them, it can literally feel like there isn’t space for them in the Circle.
Assess the lighting in your space. If the overhead light is super harsh, are there a softer lamps or a string of lights you can set up? When light is warm, spaces feel cozy, welcoming, and comfortable. When the lighting isn’t quite right, an intimate vibe is nearly impossible to achieve.
Think about the kind of sounds and instruments that will help create the feeling and build the energy you envision for this Circle meeting. Music can set the tone (literally). It can also help block out noise coming from outside the meeting (roommates, street noise, etc).
Pro-tip: You may not want to have music playing while people are sharing, but it can be great while folks are arriving or while making art or writing. (Try to avoid music with lyrics for art/writing time).
Center Piece or Altar
Set up a center of focus for your Circle meeting. You might put something representing the theme of that month’s meeting at the center of the circle. You may also set out a single large candle or an arrangement of beautiful, inspiring objects. Having a center of focus for your Circle meeting unifies the group and serves as a connector.
For inspiration, check out the opening and closing rituals we’ve included in Packet 6: Ritual.
Once you know how you plan to spend the evening, identify the materials you’ll need to have. If you plan to read a poem or reference a book, pull those out. If the Circle will be doing a writing exercise or making some art, have paper and art supplies accessible to all. For personal writing exercises, it’s helpful to have books or magazines handy as hard surfaces to write on.
Sharing food is a sweet way for people to connect. However, sharing food is a ritual unto itself. If you decide to incorporate food, whether a full on dinner or just light snacks, consider timing it before or after your Circle meeting. Make your Well Circle time holy. Keep in mind that it can make the meeting extra potent if you’re doing nothing else except being present with each other.
First Circle Meeting
CHECKLIST + PLAN
Volume 2, Section 4
Have a theme? Got all your materials? Ready to go? As you (and your hevruta, if you have one) launch into the exciting world of hosting your first Well Circle meeting, you can use the checklist below as a guide.
We recommend setting aside at least two hours for your Well Circle meetings, plus 30 to 60 minutes on either end for prep time and clean-up. Note that all suggested times are approximations.
1. PRE-MEETING SET-UP
(30 MINUTES TO 1 HOUR)
Arrange seating/cushions in a circle.
Turn on music.
Gather activity materials.
Lay out food.
Unlock the front door and/or set up signs with directions if needed.
2. PRE-MEETING SELF-CARE
Take some deep breaths or do some simple stretching to calm and clear your mind and body.
Get yourself a cup of water or tea.
Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the space that you’ve created.
Appreciate what’s about to happen.
Share the story of why you wanted to start this Circle.
Ask each woman to introduce herself and answer a simple, sweet prompt. (For example, add your favorite food after your name — such as “I’m Rachel Sweet Potato” — or after introducing yourself, add a sound that describes how you feel.)
4. INTRODUCE THE MONTH’S THEMES & DEEPER DIVE
To set the tone and get your Circle thinking, share some thoughts about the month and the theme(s) you’ve chosen.
Next, ask everyone to go deeper, answering the basic, Why are you here? Another way to phrase it: What challenge or question or hunger brought you to this room?
Call and response is a great tool to support smooth transitions and active listening. Here’s a version we really like: when someone has finished speaking, she can say Dibarti. In Hebrew, it means “I have spoken.” The group can respond with Shamati, Hebrew for “I have heard you.”
5. SET NORMS
Introduce the norms of the group referencing the Well Circle Culture Norms list from the opening of this packet. Your goal is to create group buy-in and agreement to honor the norms — first by vocalizing them, then giving space to address any questions, disagreements, or missing rules.
Here’s one way to go about this process that balances large group time and one-on-one time.
Start by walking through the norms as a group. This could mean printing them out and reviewing them with different Circle members reading each aloud and, if necessary, discussing what each one means as a group.
Next, you may have everyone turn to someone else and spend ten minutes talking together about how these Circle Basics resonate. Are there any ground rules missing?
If you split up to talk, reconvene the Circle to share back insights, questions, and concerns. If someone brings up something you don’t understand, ask if someone else would rephrase it. If someone brings up something you don’t think is important, ask the group Does this resonate with anyone else? to see if it’s an issue to devote more time to.
6. INTENTION SETTING
(15 TO 20 MINUTES)
Invite everyone to spend five minutes writing out her intention(s) for this Circle, specifically for the coming month. Ask each woman to introduce themselves to someone new to them in the Circle and share their intentions, each sharing for five minutes.
Optional: Reconvene to share with the full Circle.
Close the circle with a ritual. See two possible closing rituals in Packet 6: Ritual.
You can also close the meeting simply, asking each member to offer a blessing for the month by completing the phrase May this be a month of _______.
When it feels right, ask everyone to take a deep breath together. Count to three and have everyone blow out any candles you may have lit together.
8. LOGISTICS + COMMITMENT
As a Circle, determine what commitment looks like. What does the group expect from each other in terms of communication, leadership, and attendance?
Distribute a printed sheet people can sign on the spot for leading and hosting this year’s Circles. Talk through what leading and hosting involve. Make sure to mention co-facilitation as an option. Consider forwarding them this packet as a resource. For more how to handle scheduling, and to solve scheduling problems, see Packet 4: Circle Upkeep.
Decide as a group how you want to plan subsequent Circle dates. A few options:
Meet on every new moon. It’s a New Moon Circle, after all!
Set the full year’s dates then and there.
Select the next Circle date at the end of each Well Circle meeting.
Pick a regular meeting time and date. For example, every fourth Thursday at 7 pm.
We know scheduling can be a bear, and have dedicated more space to troubleshooting scheduling strategies in Packet 4: Circle Upkeep.
9. SCHMOOZING + CLEANING UP
Sharing the clean up is important — it makes the night’s host/leader feel taken care of. Making each Circle meeting a group effort shows more hesitant leaders that this really is a team effort and that responsibility for the Circle is shared.
Plus, the post-meeting meeting is often the juiciest, especially at the beginning of a new Circle. Informal mingling time is ideal for getting to know each other and deepening connection.
Reference this checklist as you plan your first Well Circle meeting.
Volume 2, Section 5
So we’ve got the first meeting down. Now what? Here’s a basic agenda for any subsequent Circle meeting. For reference, the following section is a particularly great one to share with the rest of your Well Circle.
Plan for two hours, with a little extra time for pre-meeting set-up, self-care, schmoozing, eating, and cleaning.
This is only a basic meeting structure. Feel free to do your own, entirely different thing. Each session will be its own reflection of the month’s themes and leader’s style and vibe of the Circle.
1. LEADER INTRO
(5 TO 15 MINUTES)
The leader welcomes everyone and shares a bit about the month’s themes. She may lead an opening ritual or share an opening prompt followed by responses in go-around or popcorn-style. (See Packet 3: Circle Leadership for more tips on these strategies.)
2. MAIN EVENTS
(1 TO 1.5 HOURS)
Facilitator leads the group through text reading + discussion, a creative activity, meditation, movement practice... anything! This is the real meat of the gathering; it’s up to the facilitator to decide what she wants to bring to the group and how she wants to structure the meeting. For ideas, check out Packet 5: Modalities or At The Well’s monthly Moon Manuals.
(10 TO 20 MINUTES)
This is a good spot for a song, insight sharing, or a full group conversation. You might close by going around the circle completing the phrase “May this be a month of...” and blowing out the candles.
4. UPCOMING LOGISTICS
Get the scoop from the current host about how to help clean up. If you don’t already have your next meeting on the calendar, schedule next month’s Facilitator(s)/Host. (If it’s already scheduled, just remind everyone where and when the next Circle meeting will happen.)
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