Circle gatherings are one of the most ancient tools used worldwide to bond and build communities. Circlework™, as taught by Jalaja Bonheim, PhD, uses this tool in ways that reflect our contemporary needs and challenges. It slows us down, connects us with our hearts and helps us rediscover what imbues our life with meaning, purpose and passion. Simultaneously it addresses the soul’s hunger for a deeper and more authentic sense of connection with self, others and nature.
Circlework immerses us in a field of love so powerful that we cannot help but awaken to our oneness. We emerge knowing, in an embodied, visceral way, that we belong to a single human family and a single planetary community. Dedicated to our collective healing and transformation, Circlework supports the powerful wave of new awareness that is transforming human consciousness today and serves as an antidote to the judgment, violence and warfare that are shredding our communities today.
One of the great lies we’ve been told is that our mind is qualified to run our lives. By giving the rational mind so much power, we block our access to the wisdom we need, which radiates from a realm beyond the mind. Circlework helps us cultivate what Jalaja calls “heart-thinking.” Unlike “head-thinking,” which splits our mind from our body and disconnects us from our hearts, heart-thinking allows us to use our intellect in service of the heart. Thus heart-thinking fuses mind and heart into a single organ of compassionate intelligence.
Another very important aspect of Circlework is the fact that it is strongly body-centered. We use movement, touch, sound and many other non-verbal modalities to connect with our body. This, in turn, calms the mind and helps us access states of deep inner peace and silence.
Circlework is a spiritual practice, yet it is entirely non-religious. As such, it allows people of diverse faiths (or no faith) to share profoundly sacred experiences. Besides addressing our basic need for spiritual communion, Circlework reveals the beauty and value within all of us. Very naturally, we begin to relate to ourselves and others with greater respect, caring and compassion.
One of the main aims of Circlework is to empower women. This is important because as long as women remain oppressed and abused, we have no hope of creating a peaceful global civilization.
Furthermore, Circlework fosters qualities that exist in both men and women, yet are traditionally associated with the feminine, such as gentleness, softness or receptivity. If we want to enjoy greater inner peace and create a more peaceful word, we must strengthen these feminine qualities within ourselves, for they hold the key to maintaining harmonious, peaceful relationships.
Circlework is an extremely spacious experience. It includes laughter and play, pleasure and joy, music and dance, storytelling and poetry, nurturance and beauty. During retreats and trainings, women have plenty of time to rest, walk in nature or meditate. Besides inviting a more spacious, open state of consciousness, Circlework challenges us to live our life in a more spacious, relaxed way.
For several decades, Jalaja Bonheim has been on a mission to train leaders, especially women leaders, in the skillful use of circle gatherings. Today, many people facilitate circle gatherings, but most of them were never taught how to tap the extraordinary potential of circle gatherings to heal and transform us. Jalaja Bonheim’s weeklong trainings attract women, not only from around the US and Canada, but also from India, Afghanistan, Kenya, Israel, Palestine, Australia and many other nations.
“You have noticed that everything an Indian does in in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”— Black Elk