Every Thursday morning a group from our School for Contemplative Living gathers for a Circle of Trust. We read Parker Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness, which includes a description of creating such groups. The gist of what our group experiences is as follows: someone brings a poem which has spoken to them, the group begins with about five minutes of silence to center ourselves, the person with the poem shares copies and a brief explanation of why they selected this one. Then the group listens to two persons give voice to the poem. Then we all listen in silence with a question for ourselves of how does this poem speak to my soul, or how does my soul speak to me through this poem?
We follow Parker Palmer’s suggested guidelines regarding speaking our own truth from our own soul, with no advice-giving, open-ended questions, personal curiosity about how our Life might speak to us through the poem, and deep confidentiality. The meanings shared by the participants are diverse and varied every week. We do share very personal aspects of our stories which have been touched by the poem. We can do so because we offer each other a safe space without judgment.
I try to listen for words or phrases in the poems through which my soul might want to tell me things I don’t already know. Sometimes what arises is more of a confirmation of things I have believed or known already. Either way, the work is trusting the inner teacher as our ultimate authority.
Imagine discovering that within you there is a Teacher who is perpetually willing to guide you, no matter what your life has become or where you thought it was heading. Imagine the discipline of listening within, in stillness, quieting the noisy mind long enough to gradually become clear. Imagine hearing an Inner Voice speak things you never knew. Now imagine how words on a page can become alive when you let your soul speak.
Now, imagine a life without wise guidance, stumbling along without any sense of direction or purpose. There you have a typical American life. How very blessed we are to discover there is another way – a listening way – a circle of trust in which we can learn to listen within to the inner teacher through a simple thing like a poem. This is the life we choose, a life on the wisdom path surrounded by circles of trust. Join us sometime, or read Parker Palmer’s book for guidance and form your own group. Blessings on that journey.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture. This book is now available on Kindle Books.