Recently I found myself sitting in a circle with a group of strangers. It was at a Jewish gathering. Jews love to sit in circles. We’re not the only ones.
I think people like to sit in circles because circles physically represent a vision of community and human interaction. If you’re inside the circle, you’re part of the community. If you’re part of the community, you are equally valued and respected as any other part of the community. Something like that.
Over the years I’ve found myself sitting in many circles. But too often those circles actually feel more like pyramids. Though you wouldn’t know it from the seating arrangement, there are power dynamics, hierarchies and things like that at play. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, more an unavoidable reality.
Which brings me to the circle in which I recently found myself sitting. It was actually while sitting in that circle that I arrived at a deeper appreciation for why people like to sit in circles and why that form of seating often remains aspirational in terms of the actual group dynamics. What made this circle different than many I’ve sat in over the years is that it truly felt like a circle. I was a stranger to the group, but was instantly welcomed. Some had been a part of the circle for many years, others were relative new comers. Being the newest member of the group I was unable to detect any power struggles or hierarchies. Instead I observed a highly respectful, warm, and supportive environment. Everything that a circle can and should be.