In his remarkable book, ‘A Hidden Wholeness’, Parker Palmer wrote about the Monday morning letdown which he had sometimes experienced after an inspiring weekend retreat. But a Circle of Trust® retreat, he wrote, “…does not take us to the mountaintop only to let us down.” He quoted participants who said that rather than feeling ‘high’ after a circle of trust, they felt grounded and at home in the world, better able to engage with it in life-giving ways.
My own early experience of Circles of Trust® confirmed that notion, I would leave a retreat feeling connected to an inner center of gravity. I felt rooted in the quiet wisdom of that Inner Teacher I’d heard in the safety of a trusted circle. But as the weeks passed, I often found it difficult to retain that grounded sense of clarity and purpose. Trying to rise to the challenges of the work I wanted to do, the world and my old ways of being conspired to push me out beyond the gravitational reach of that inner clarity. I began to ask myself what I had failed to learn, what was missing in my toolbox for the inner work of courage?
Soon after I began asking those questions I found this passage in ‘Rilke’s Book of Hours’:
How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
each stone, blossom, child--
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth's intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
And I began again to learn. I returned to ‘A Hidden Wholeness’ and (re)discovered this idea — if we are to consistently engage with the world in life-giving ways a vital resource we need is “an ongoing community of support” …we need the company of “people who can help us find the courage to take the next step”. But I knew almost no one familiar with Circles of Trust® and the practices which create and hold their safe spaces. So when WholeHeart’s Holly Wilkinson asked if I would participate in a pilot program of ‘Living Courage’ calls, I not only participated in the pilot, I then registered for the first official offering of the program and found an ongoing community of support. The calls gave me regular opportunities to “begin again to learn” how to connect to my own inner wisdom, finding there the courage to re-connect with my work in life-giving ways.
If paradox is the invisible foundation of Circles of Trust®, it seems fitting that when we stay grounded, firmly planted in the deep soil of our shy souls, we can rise and rise again to do the hard work before us.
Surrendering to the wisdom of our center of gravity …we rise up rooted, like trees.
JOIN US for WholeHeart’s next monthly Living Courage Call series (March-August 2019) to kindle your courage for the day-to-day. To learn more and register visit: Living Courage Calls: Practicing in Community
Dale Skaggs has offered a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to work in fields as diverse as Technology, Business, the Arts, and Sustainable Agriculture. Dale is currently in preparation to become a Circle of Trust® facilitator affiliated with the Center for Courage & Renewal and is dedicated to supporting the work of home-grown, locally oriented community organizations, particularly Congregations and other neighborhood-embedded nonprofits. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife Lynda Lambert.