- Section 1 - Choosing a Modality
- Section 2 - Tools of the Trade: Best Practices from Across Modalities
- Part 1 - Let’s Talk About the Body: At The Well’s Best Practices for Learning about Health, Wellness, and Science
- Part 2 - Best Practices for Incorporating the Arts
- Part 3 - Guiding a RED HOT DIVINE FEM HOLY Meditation
- Part 4 - Unified Voices: The Power of Song
- Part 5 - Sashay, Shantay: Movement for Everyone
- Part 5 - Once Upon a Facilitation: Top 10 Tips for Well Circle Storytelling
Choosing A Modality
Volume 5, Section 1
Successful facilitation looks like leading a group through an exercise, ritual, or conversation with confidence and ease. At The Well calls each of these a modality: a directed approach that helps us create community, sacred space, and connection. Well Circle meetings present two unique opportunities to develop your skills and faith in yourself as a facilitator.
Strut Your Stuff
Lead the group in an area you know well and share your skills. If you’re a devoted meditator, it could be a mini-meditation class. If you’re an artist, you could bring in a craft. If you know a lot about nutrition, you could offer the group a lesson in healthy eating for hormonal health. Bringing your expertise to your Well Circle gives you an opportunity to shine, and be seen and celebrated for your competent know-how.
Lean Into the Unknown
Facilitating your Well Circle meeting can also be a great opportunity to look into something that intrigues you, or to learn something you’ve always wanted to know. For example, maybe you’ve been meaning to get into dance therapy. Or you’ve been wondering what Jewish texts have to say about sexuality and sexual expression. Or you’ve been wanting to start a practice of journaling.
There’s no better way to learn something than by preparing to lead it. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to try, consider incorporating it into your plan when it’s your turn to facilitate.
Below is a list of possible modalities you could incorporate into your Well Circle plan. Scan the list identify a few you’re excited to use. This isn’t an exhaustive list, just some ideas to get you going.
Verbal storytelling (sharing and witnessing)
- Arts and crafts (drawing, collage, mask-making, map-making)
- Writing (stories, poetry, journaling, letters)
- Readings (poems, Jewish texts, articles, passages)
- Movement (journey dance, embodiment, yoga)
- Theater (skits, improvisation)
- Mindfulness (guided or personal meditation, dream interpretation)
- Music (singing songs, making/listening to music)
- Food (preparing, sharing)
- Text study (analyzing, debating, and exploring the stories from Judaism’s ancient texts
To see how you might turn one of these modalities into an activity or ritual for your Well Circle, take a cruise through our Moon Manuals. These monthly newsletters are brimming with activities and teachings themed to the Hebrew calendar from many of these modalities.
Tools of the Trade
BEST PRACTICES FROM ACROSS MODALITIES
Volume 5, Section 2
The following are some best practices written by At The Well community members. They are art therapists, stand-up comedians, professional dancers, community organizers, and more — experts in their fields with wisdom to share. The best practices we’ve included here aren’t a comprehensive list; we want them to jumpstart your ideation process. Read on to learn about how these experts think about and facilitate their craft.
Let's Talk About The Body
At The Well’s Best Practices for Learning About Health, Wellness, and Science
Section 2, Part 1
At The Well believes strongly that your Well Circle is a place to explore the “Torah” of your physical existence — the complex interrelated systems inside you, the science, and the connections to spiritual practice and thought related to living inside of a body. We believe in the value of speaking more openly about health, sharing what we know, and voicing what we have questions about. For these reasons, we encourage you and your Well Circle to use some of your time together to explore matters of physical and mental health.
Here are some ideas of how you might do that at your next Well Circle meeting:
Use At The Well’s ’zine Wrestling With Menstruation as a guide to lead a session about menstrual hormones, how they work in a menstruating body, and how mental health is linked to the menstrual cycle.
Bring an article or book chapter from a women’s health organization or publication to teach and discuss. You might want to send this article out a week in advance of the meeting to give people time to read and digest it. Then, devote time in your Circle meeting to discuss and debate the content together.
When it’s your turn to facilitate a Well Circle meeting, become an expert in a health issue, like the interaction of exercise and hormones, the link between sleep and psychological wellness, or the physiology of anger. At your next meeting, present what you’ve learned to the group.
When in dialogue and conversation about these issues, make sure to stay sensitive to strong or difficult feelings that may arise as a result of having a public conversation about private matters of health.
We know these conversations can get heady and scientific, and they can inadvertently trigger shame, vulnerability, and even anger. At The Well and Well Circles honor all bodies.
Don’t forget to check in with the group about how everyone is feeling in their bodies, minds, and hearts as a result of talking about these topics. You can even do a quick go around the Circle, asking the group exactly that: Can everyone share, in a few words, how this is making you feel in your body, mind, and heart?
At The Well believes what we share in common outstrips our differences, that no two bodies are the same, that no two health plans should look alike, and that it’s important to apply the wisdom of listening to each other without arriving at judgments.
If heavy topics come up during a health conversation, study, or activity, if anger flares, or if people start feeling very vulnerable, you’re free as a participant to take a step away and take a brief break. As the facilitator, after everyone is finished sharing or the activity ends, consider leading the group in a few deep breaths, stretches, or wordless vocalizations (like Ahhh or a whooshing sound). You can also offer a bio break for everyone to hit the reset button.
For a Well Circle meeting that leans towards intellectual conversation and learning, we recommend opening and closing the meeting with a ritual (more on how to do this in Packet 6: Ritual, as well as a few examples of opening and closing rituals you can use). Rituals are important; they help us get out of our buzzing heads and feel into our hearts.
It’s empowering, revelatory, and invigorating to learn about how our bodies work, both based on the most up-to-date science about the body, and from many generations of Jewish debate and wisdom. Combining these two bodies of knowledge, we can ask the big questions that lead to more body-positive, integrated confidence in ourselves.
Best Practices for Incorporating The Arts
Section 2, Part 2
Ellie Lotan, MA, MFTI, is an Expressive Arts Therapist currently practicing at Blue Oak Therapy Center in Berkeley, where she provides holistic psychotherapy to a diverse population. As a long-time Jewish community organizer, group facilitator, and activist, Ellie is passionate about working towards healing collective and ancestral trauma, weaving together tools from earth-based spiritual practice, somatic experiencing, and the expressive arts.
Using the arts can be a great way to dive deeper into a question or theme. When we engage in creative forms of exploration and expression, we use different parts of our brain than when we talk it out explicitly, and the results can often surprise us!
1. HONE IN ON A PROMPT
What is the theme or question that you are inviting participants to take a closer look at? It could be the theme of the month or a specific aspect of the larger theme. Using the arts will conjure up personal responses; it is an opportunity for each participant to take some time to consider for themselves how they feel about this subject.
For example, if Passover is coming up this month and the general theme is Exodus to Freedom, a question that can be explored through art could be, What are some areas in your life where you would like to be more free?
Keep the theme general enough that it can generate a diversity of responses. If participants wants clarification about what you mean by your question, let them know they can use whatever interpretation works for them — there is no wrong answer!
2. CALCULATE YOUR TIMING
Figure out how much of your session, and at what point, you’d like the arts portion to be. Is this arts activity a way to explore the themes of an excerpt read together beforehand? Is it a way to warm up into a group conversation?
Art takes time! It can take folks time to get into their creative flow. Factor in enough time for explaining the activity (5 minutes), doing the activity (20 to 30 minutes), share-back/discussion (10 to 20 minutes), and eventually clean-up (usually best left for the end of the gathering).
3. PICK YOUR MODALITY/MATERIALS
There are many arts modalities (the ways or modes in which something is done) that can work great for Well Circles. Choosing what modality to use can depend on a number of factors: access to materials, abilities and willingness of the group, what the space/location can accommodate, how much time you have, what modality supports or is inspired by the prompt, and what excites or inspires you and the group!
Some ideas: oil pastels, collage, box or mask decorating, musical instrument follow-the-leader, haiku poetry writing, free-writing, movement mirroring in pairs, ritual using materials from nature, writing anonymous blessings for one another, making up a symbolic movement dance. The ideas are endless.
If you are stuck, here is a tip: Follow the metaphor. For example, if your question is, What’s on your plate right now? you can invite the group to respond using markers, colored pencils, or oil pastels to decorate a paper plate.
It can be nice to display art materials in a center “altar” in the center of the circle. That way everyone has equal access to the materials, and it can inspire excitement and curiosity when folks arrive.
Remember: Less is more! You do not need to come up with a complex activity to inspire creativity.
4. MAKING THE OFFER TO THE GROUP
There is huge variety in the ways that people respond to the invitation to make art. Be prepared that many people feel they are “bad artists” or don’t “do” art. Let people know that they can do as much or as little as they want, and that this is really not about product, but about process. No one is judging or grading how good they think each other’s art is — that is not the purpose of the Well Circle. The purpose is to use the different tools, other than talking, to explore or express how we feel about something.
Based on your time calculations, let people know how much time they’ll have for art making.
Let people know that they will not be forced to share when they’re done, but will be given the opportunity if they want to share.
5. DURING ART-MAKING TIME
It can be nice to put on some lyric-less music while people are making visual art or movement. However, if you are writing, music, even without words, can be a distraction.
You may want to partake in the activity yourself. Just make sure you keep an eye on the group’s needs.
People may get stuck. You can remind them that there is no wrong way to do this activity — every interpretation is just another way to play with the theme. Encourage people to take the risk and leave their comfort zone, but don’t push it. If someone really doesn’t want to do the project, they can do something else that they feel more comfortable with.
Set an alarm for when it’s time to start winding down. Give them several minutes warning before coming back as a circle.
Keep in touch with the vibe of the group: If you are getting the sense that people are done, even if you had another five minutes planned for this section, check in with the group and see if they feel ready to move on.
6. SHARING ART
Sharing your experience of making art is an enriching part of the art-making process. Consider if you want this to be a discussion, or just a quick sharing of anything that wants to be shared.
It can be good to start with some broad questions and get more specific as the discussion continues. Some good questions to ask are:
- How was it for you to do this activity?
- What did you learn?
- Did any emotions or sensations come up for you?
- Did anything surprise you?
- How does this tie back to the original question or theme?
Remind people that they don’t have to share if they don’t want to. They can share as much or as little as they feel comfortable. Maybe they don’t want to show their art, but are willing to talk about what it was like for them.
That’s it! Good luck, and remember: It can be great to make a plan, but even greater to let it go! More often than not, the plans we make don’t go they way we expect them to and that is just fine, because the magic is in the mystery. If you are open to surprises and roll with that’s happening, you’ll be rewarded with gems you never could have possibly planned ahead of time.
Above all: Follow your intuition! She knows what’s up. And... HAVE FUN!!
Guiding A Red Hot Divine Fem Holy Meditation
Section 2, Part 3
Erin Rachel Doppelt is an international spiritual educator and meditation obsessed Ivy League researcher promoting connection to the Divine Fem through science and spirit. Check out her social media @bullshitfreebabe and her website, erinracheldoppelt.com.
There are many articulations of the Divine Feminine. For some it may mean including and valuing the feminine as an equally fundamental dynamic of the creative life force. It may mean including and honoring the feminine in religious expression, ritual and ceremony. Some honor the “Mother Earth” while others affirm what culture identifies as traditionally feminine qualities, gestures, roles, and actions.
This meditation brings us deep into the sacred revelry of the feminine.
Create the Space
1. Place a bowl of earth elements (foliage, rocks, sand, salt) in the center of the room. Feel free to light candles.
2. Ask everyone to sit in a circle on the ground.
3. Encourage everyone to get comfortable. If possible, they can place have a bolster, pillow, or even a folded piece of clothing beneath their sacrum (tailbone) to tilt the pelvic floor forward. This will help to open tight hips, where women often carry stress and trauma.
GUIDE YOUR WELL CIRCLE IN MEDITATION
1. Vocalize a positive intention for the group and open up space for individuals to also set their own intention. Because this meditation celebrates the Divine Feminine, you’ll want to include the feminine in your invocation.
For example: Women of the well, descendants of the red tent, we invite you to set a purpose for why you are here. We would like to offer the group an intention: to be a positive voice in our own heads, to connect to kind and loving thoughts of self and others, to honor the matriarchs and Divine Females before us, and to welcome the feminine force of the Rosh Chodesh moon. If you’d like to add another intention please do so silently.
2. Set an even, contemplative pace by inviting everyone to close their eyes and connect to their breath. You may want to tap into your Well Circle’s emotional intelligence (EI) — often an innate skill for women — by encouraging the Circle to self-reflect.
For example: Check in to how you feel and what you are thinking in this moment.
3. Guide the Circle into a Breath Exercise, designed to slow down nervous system and fire up brain pleasure centers:
Instruct the group to inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of six. Set the example by producing a loud “AHHH” exhale. The “Ah” will to encourage people to fully exhale, open their throats, and use their voice to release.
Practice this breath-work for two to three minutes.
4. Allow the room to become silent. Take this moment to allow the group to experience the effects of their breathwork. At this time, you may want to play soulful music that resonates with you.
5. Now that their bodies are activated and calm, guide your Circle through one or two mindfulness practices. Below are some favorite options:
Traditional Guided Mindfulness
Release all stress in your face. Remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth, swallow. Allow the shoulders to relax and stomach loosen. Breathe into your lower belly. Notice where tension may lie in the body and breathe into these spaces. If you have an unkind thought, recognize it, and then come back to our intention.
Divine Female Guided Mindfulness
Think of all the strong women in your life. Women are the birthers of creation, the source that provides first nourishment to all, red hot holy Divine Female. Women nourish, manifest, protect. We are forever connected to earth, to the moon.
You may adapt this to include your own list of physical, sexual, emotional, or cultural elements of the feminine that you call sacred and want to contemplate.
6. End with silence for quiet contemplation.
1. When you sense the group is ready (or your time is almost up!), slowly and kindly bring them out of their meditation. A great way to do this is to share an inspirational quote rooted in Feminine Energy. Below is a list of favorite readings.
2. Pass around the bowl of earth elements and allow each woman to take some foliage out for themselves or perhaps to add to a personal meditation altar if they have one. Your Circle now has something tangible to take home with them to turn to in times when they are uneasy.
Congratulations! You have successfully lead a Divine Fem Meditation.
Books to turn to for guidance:
The Power of Song
Section 2, Part 4
Helen Bennett is a network weaver, facilitator, spiritual director, organizer, and community builder. She connects ritual and action, helping individuals, communities, and social movements be rooted and powerful. Learn more about Helen on her website, helenmiriambennett.com.
In his book Building Singing Communities, Joey Weisenberg outlines seven reasons why people sing together. He also discusses how singing relates to Jewish music and prayer. Here’s an introduction to some of his insights, which can serve as inspiration for bringing song into your Well Circle in intentional and special ways:
“Music has always been intricately interwoven into Jewish life; when we sing, we feel connected with the great Jewish singers of times past, from King David to Yossele Rosenblat to Zusha to Amy Winehouse.
“Singing allows us to communicate and express ourselves in ways that words cannot, when feeling into experiences beyond words: our yearning for the Divine, or our deepest joys and sorrows.
“Singing brings us closer to each other in a community, and teaches us how to listen to each other, despite vastly different backgrounds and views.
“Singing marks time, putting us in touch with the rhythms of life. We see how, throughout liturgy [the ritualized language of prayer], different types of melodies are used to differentiate between different times of the Jewish day, week, month, and year.
“Singing helps us suspend our disbelief, like theater. We momentarily set aside cynical worldviews and limiting habits of mind. When we sing, we catch a glimpse of the infinite wonder of the world.
“Singing is an invitation to invention and creativity. It allows us to improvise, create spontaneous harmonies and rhythms, and express our freedom.
“Singing is an ideal way to release all kinds of pent-up emotions, from awe to fear to contrition to overwhelming gratitude.”
Teaching a Song
Got a song in your heart that’s unknown to your Circle? Teach it! Here’s how:
2 Quick Tips for Song Leading
Always teach it! Even if some people know the song, teaching it will help everyone feel at home and able to bring their voice to the circle.
Because song is a form of ritual and ritual can be holy, sacred, and/or inspire significant emotional transformation, work to develop your craft as a song leader. Song leading is high-level facilitation!
Song Setup, Step-By-Step
- Ask everyone to get ready for the song by inviting people to free their hands, move closer, and settle into the space together.
- Make sure the words are accessible, either on a handout, written-up, or spoken “repeat after me”-style.
- Share the song’s origins by sharing anything you know about its history. This can mean acknowledging the culture and tradition it came from, and if you know who it was, the song’s creator.
- Set an intention for the song. Is there deeper meaning you’d like to invite everyone to hold while singing?
- Invite everyone to embrace the silence that comes after the song finishes. Let the energy of voices raised sink in.
Song Teaching Tools
- Sing it line-by-line, “repeat after me”-style, breaking the parts into phrases. This is good for songs with lots of words or complicated melodies.
- Sing it over and over until people get it. Then, call out for harmonies. This is good for simple songs that do a lot of repeating.
- If it’s a complicated melody, use your hand to show the pattern of the notes going up and down. If there’s someone else who also knows the song, ask them to help. You can also use your hands to gesture while you sing and when people repeat, holding your hand on your chest when you’re singing, and offering your hand to the group when it’s their turn to try.
- Singing along while it’s their turn can also be helpful as they learn!
- If the song has a complicated rhythm, get everyone to feel or support the rhythm in their bodies by swaying, tapping a foot, slapping a knee, clapping, or snapping. Don’t require this; sometimes keeping time stresses people out even more than trying to sing.
- Teach the tune first — sing the melody wordlessly. Add in the words once you can tell people are comfortable with the tune.
- Before you start singing, explain the complexities of the song and how to sing it together. For example, if it’s a round, describe how many times the group will sing together before breaking into the round, noting where to come in, and checking to see that someone else feels strong enough to hold the song if you’re going to come in later. If it’s a song with multiple parts that layer onto each other, tell everyone how many times the group will all sing which part, and make sure to split the group up before you start.
- Say “last time” at the start of the round where you want to end. It’s a little directive, but helpful in developing a singing culture.
- Slow it down and hold out the last word so the song settles down. (You can also sing a little louder at that point so people get the hint.)
- Get still. Stop whatever you’ve been doing to hold down the beat, showing the next round is the last round.
- Follow the energy of the group. You can let the group lead, letting go of how many times to sing the song through. Feel when the energy has peaked and then comes down. Don’t be afraid of letting a humming round be the final closing. The more you practice song leading and hone your craft, the more comfortable this modality becomes.
Congratulations! You have successfully taught a group of people a song.
Movement for Everyone
Section 2, Part 5
Daniela Plattner’s mission is to move minds and bodies in places where they ordinarily get stuck. She is an embodiment facilitator, certified teacher of 5Rhythms, leadership coach and founder of the The Future of Feminine. She teaches people how to access their body’s intelligence to make more effective decisions, walk in integrity, and be happier.
When starting to facilitate any group, of any size, it’s essential that people feel comfortable and safe so they can open up, share, and ultimately make the most of the time together connecting with others.
But before a Well Circle meeting, you can often expect that people have been busy running from other locations, coming from work, and generally in another state of mind. Their minds might be caught in nuances of the day’s activity, or racing mind about what’s about to happen in the Circle, or in future planning.
Movement or any sort of embodiment activity will get people out of their talkative headspace and into their whole body. When people are more connected to their whole body, they feel present (the body and breath exist only in the present moment), empathetic with others, calmer, and a multitude of other benefits that will help everyone connect.
Getting Buy-In for Getting Embodied
Make it a an opener: Make it low commitment by telling your Circle that everyone is going to do a brief movement warm-up to get your blood flowing. The warm-up will connect more to your full selves, each other, and honor your sacred vehicles.
Tap into the body wisdom: Our bodies are not just taxis for our brain; they are the home of vast wisdom which we are learning to honor and listen to. If you are in a particularly stiff group or crew new to this type of work, you might throw in some data points on why it’s useful to listen to our bodies or the intelligence of our bodies.
Here are some facts from the HeartMath Institute, which show that our body, heart, gut, and feet are our guiding compasses:
- The heart sends about 75% more messages to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.
- The magnetic field produced by the heart is more than 100 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain. The brain’s field can be detected up to one inch away from the body, while the heart’s field can be detected from up to three feet away!
Our body is the captain of our ship, even though we often get waylaid by prioritizing the rational, analytical, “logical” thinking mind.
Getting Moving: Warm-ups
A few of my favorite, easy, simple body-based presencing exercises:
- Ask everyone to take a deep breath in through their nose.
- Exhale through their mouth. Repeat two to three times.
- On the final exhale, tell them to “sigh” out. This deeper breath should make sound. Demonstrate that yourself.
(5 to 7 minutes)
- Our feet are the farthest distance from our head. Feeling our feet on the ground reminds us of our connection to the earth and immediately brings a sense of literal groundedness.
- Ask people to stand up. They should let go of any cups or anything they are holding so their arms are free.
- Plant your feet, bend your knees, and add a light bounce, jiggle, or shake in any way that feels comfortable. You might say, Shake off the day a bit, so we can arrive here.
- Once people have a minute or two to shake out, ask them to close their eyes and simply feel their feet on the ground.
- Optional: Tell people to imagine, feel, or sense that their feet are extending into the ground like roots of a tree going deep and far into the earth. Ask them: What kind of tree are you? Imagine all the other trees here with us in our forest. We are rooted here. We have arrived.
3. Structured Shake Out
(3 to 5 minutes)
When energy might be a bit low and people need a surge of energy, do this shake out. This quick exercise is like taking an espresso shot! Wake up! Hi, World! After this everyone usually ends laughing and pumped for the next activity.
This game can get quite loud. If you are in a position, embrace the noise to really bring the energy up. Also, as the facilitator, it’s helpful if you demonstrate the shaking and give it your all!
- Starting with the right hand, the group counts out loud, backwards from “10 to 1” while shaking that hand.
- Switch to the left hand: Count backwards from 10 to 1 and shake.
- Repeat the same process, next with the right foot, then the left foot, and then the booty.
- Repeat Steps 1 through 4, this time counting backwards from 9 to 1.
- Continue to repeat Steps 1 through 4, each time decreasing the count: 8 to 1, 7 to 1, and so on until you reach just 1. (You’ll notice the count and movement get progressively faster and louder.)
- Finish with a “freak out” where everyone shakes their whole body while shouting.
4. Movement Check-In
(5 to 7 minutes)
This is my favorite, go-to, easiest, and most fun way of doing a movement-based check-in. It’s also a great way to have people take shared leadership, and to learn from and about each other.
- Stand up if you’re not already standing.
- Explain: We’re going to go around the circle, and each person shares how they are doing or what they are feeling in this moment. The catch is, no words! You will share how you’re doing with a movement and a sound. After you’ve done your movement and sound, everyone will mirror back exactly what you did.
- You demonstrate. You will set the tone. Note: The more big and silly or honest you make yourself, the more others will follow your lead.
- If the group is small, you might have them do a second round. This time, there will definitely be a different air in the room, and you’ll get a different feel from each person to see more of their complexity.
- If you want to challenge the group, try an instant replay. To invoke collaboration and fun, suggest: Now, we have the opportunity to practice our collective memory. As a group, let’s remember each person’s check-in movement and sound!
5. Dance it Out
(3 to 5 minutes)
This is an easy way to welcome people or get things started. Music is always a resource to elevate or shift the mood in the room. And dance is the language of the body. It’s simple, profound and a classic joy-bringing practice.
- Play a dynamic song. Maybe it has drumming, or is something wild and fun that will get people going. Maybe it’s a song most people know that will get them singing, but it might also get them in dancing in ways that are familiar to them.
- If you want to stretch people’s comfort zone, play new or surprising music. Think African drumming or Israeli pop or an electronic remix of a favorite Motown track. Your pleasure!
- Invite everyone to have one-song-long dance party. You might invite them to dance as if they are four years old again -— before they developed self-consciousness, to a time when they were just connected to the music, trusting whatever movement came through in the moment.
- As the facilitator, you embody letting go and getting into it. Your leadership ripples and influences.
- For a variation of this, you can play the classic freeze dance game. When the music stops, you freeze in a shape, when the music plays, you dance! This might bring a reminiscent, childlike playfulness to the space.
6. Using Movement to Shape Intentions
After any or all of the quick warm-ups above, you can invite people to stand still for a final practice as we begin to transition into the content for the Circle.
- I like to use this invocation: Close your eyes if you feel comfortable, or gaze gently into the center of the room with soft eyes. Take a moment to reflect on your intention for our time together. What would you like to experience, learn, or get out of the Circle? For example, would you like to learn more about women’s wisdom, or do you want to connect with others?
- Give your Circle a moment in silence; you’ll sense when it feels right to move on. You won’t need to more than a minute — any longer would let minds wander.
- You may chose to follow up with an additional question: And now, what is YOUR intention for how YOU will show up? Who will YOU be in our time together? For example, will you be calm, present, loving? Choose one descriptor. We are responsible for our lives and our experience.
- Now, take the Circle deeper into their embodiment: Imagine your body is a beautiful piece of clay. Mold your body into a position that represents or reflects your intention. As if you were a sculpture in a museum, if I looked at you, I could immediately tell what your intention is.
Hold this shape. Take a deep breath and gently open your eyes if they aren’t already open.
- With your Circle, look around the room: Look around the room at all intentions in the room. Beautiful. We’ve all come together with a gift, a puzzle piece, serving the greater whole. We are a tribe. We’re arrived.
Once Upon a Facilitation
Top 10 Tips for Well Circle Storytelling
Section 2, Part 6
Sarah Klegman is a storyteller, writer, performer, and co-founder of Challah Hub. She’s been with At The Well since Sivan 5777 as a writer, and digital strategist. Previously, Sarah was a creative marketing executive in the startup world, and before that, she was a talent manager and producer of comedy.
1. Share your WHY
When sharing a story that is very close to you, first communicate the importance of the moment to your Well Circle, so they can understand the weight of the moment and give you their full support and attention. If you are not telling your own story, talk about how you personally connected to the story you are telling.
2. Keep it simple
When in doubt, stay linear. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of a story, especially if you really love it! If you are telling a true story about something that happened in your life, make a little timeline for yourself. This doesn’t need to be a literal timeline — just a bulleted list of the order of events. You can keep it on hand to help make sure you hit all the points you want to talk about. It will also help you…
3. Define your story’s beginning, middle, and end
Sounds obvious! But unplanned storytelling has a way of wandering around details, places, and feelings. Suddenly, you’re not telling the story of a meaningful family vacation, but instead, have found yourself talking about your relationship with your mother for ten minutes. Now, don’t get me wrong — that’s cool, too! But defining your beginning, your middle (which is the peak of the action, or the turning point), and your end, will help keep your story sounding story-like!
4. Use descriptive language
Captivate your Circle! Especially if it’s your story, tell us about where it took place! What the day was like! Give us details! Ask yourself what’s more captivating:
A) My sister and I decided to go tubing on a river in Michigan and ended up talking about our relationship growing up.
B) It was a hot, humid, sticky summer day in my small hometown of Traverse City in Northern Michigan, so my big sister and I decided to hop in my dad’s truck, and drive the hour and a half up to the old Plat River. We strapped tubes to the roof and blasted the Backstreet Boys Millennium album the whole way there. The day was hot… but the river was like ice. At first it was refreshing, but halfway through the trip, with one more hour to go, the conversation turned serious, and we started talking about our tumultuous relationship as kids.
This example may be wordy, but you get the point.
5. Share your opinion!
How did it make you FEEL? What was your experience? It’s one thing to say what happened, but it’s something else entirely to communicate how you felt about it (spoiler alert: THAT’S the important part). Even the most experienced storytellers forget this part. Sometimes, the events themselves are so unique and clear, we forget to share our experience, which is the most important part.
We had been dating for over a month, and then one night at dinner he picked up his phone, and said, “I think I’m going to delete Tinder.” I just shrugged and took another bite.
Example 2 (once more with feeling!)
We had been dating for over a month, and then one night at dinner, he picked up his phone and said, “I think I’m going to delete Tinder.” I was torn. Should I say, “I’m sorry… what?! You haven’t already deleted it? I thought we had the exclusivity conversation? Why did you say that? How should I respond right now?” Should I say, “Haha cool,” and not make a thing of it? Or should I be honest and be like, “Why are you still using Tinder?” Instead, I shrugged, and took another bite.
6. Make it easy to understand
Assume that people in your Circle might not know as much on the topic as you do, so err on the side of explaining terminology and/or traditions.
This is especially true when it comes to the types of things we talk about in Well Circles! Remember that everyone has a different relationship to Judaism. There are all types of experiences, and levels of education. Some people might have gone to Jewish summer camp their whole lives and be super familiar with all the words and traditions and stories, and someone else might have only recently connected with Judaism, while some people might not be connected at all.
For these reasons, it can be tough for someone to feel comfortable speaking up if they aren’t familiar with what you’re talking about, so try to make your story accessible to everyone in your Circle.
7. Think about your message
Why did you choose this story? What do you want your Circle to take away? Writing out your message or motivation for telling your story for yourself will help that you stay on track, and steer the post-story conversation in a relevant direction. You can also feel free to simply SHARE the message with the group, spelling it out for them after you finish your story.
8. Keep it short
Short is good. Case and point.
9. Don’t be afraid to get creative
Visual aid? Prop? Go for it! Adding a little something extra can make for a totally different experience that can be more engaging and fun for your Circle. That being said — if it’s a book, or something with words on it, I recommend holding it up, but waiting to pass it around until you are done with the story. People tend to get distracted easily, and you want to make sure you have their attention for the story itself.
10. Prepare to ask questions, and to answer them
Once you figure out your message, jot down some thought-provoking questions that could help guide post-story conversation. After all, storytelling in this situation is a mechanism for connection and education. You can ask them if they connected with any specific parts of the story and why. You can tell them how it connects to the themes of the month, and ask if they’ve had similar experiences. However you do it, be sure to allow for post-story discussion with your Circle.
There’s a deep history of storytelling as a means of education and connection in Judaism.... plus isn’t the Torah just one big collection of stories?!
So there you have it – ten tips to get you started!
...And they all facilitated, happily ever after.
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