Distracting Circlekeeper technique and suggestions for being centered.

This happened a few years ago, but for some reason it popped in my head recently.  I remember it vividly, and I was thinking how amazing it was that the Circle went well despite the Circlekeeper.

Maybe it was me, but I want to share the story to offer you some learning about your Circlekeeping.

Let me start by reminding you that Circlekeeping is different than “chairing” a meeting or facilitating a group discussion.

You “become one” with the Circle.

The Zenkeeping - Circlekeeper
The Zenkeeping – Circlekeeper

Basically your position in the group is “with”, not “2” them, not “4” them.  It takes practice if you are used to ‘authority’ approach.  You want to have enough confidence and structure about the Circle process that your instructions regarding the Circle, are taken and translated into actions. 

For example honoring the talking piece.  Your role in Circle is to Role Model, the process.  I got some feedback at the last training I did.  Someone shared she had been watching me “listen”.  She observed I was not doing all the traditional ‘good’ listening tasks (eye contact, nodding).   It was acknowledged that I was still listening, it was that I was taking it to heart, nonjudgmentally. 
To me, nodding would have been placing my acceptance on the speaker.  The person with the talking piece is to speak without interuption and speak from the heart.  My responding to that would be giving feedback to the speaker.  That is an interuption.
So the distracting technique I experience, the story for this post.
     I was participating in a Circle as a community member.  I felt comfortable since I knew so much about how the Circle process worked.  I knew my own style was developing and it was important for me to be open to someone else’s way.  Then I became uncomfortable with the Circle keeper.  She was “correcting” people about how the talking piece was handled.  Her value was that we should be seeking it with our left hand, or taking it from the person, only using our left hand.  The keeper would interupt the process, and point or say something to the person who basically, was doing it wrong.   This way was hard to remember, the piece passed to the left, so you had to use the hand opposite the person who was handing it to you.  I felt shamed and worried I would use the wrong hand and get scolded.  I started to squeeze my left thumb as a reminder to use that hand when accepting the talking piece.  As my mind was here, I realized my heart was not listening to the speaker.  I tried to focus on both.  Then the keeper started doing follow up inquiry questions to the boys in the group.  The boys were not the community members.  As community members we didn’t get follow up questions when we spoke.  I felt uncomfortable with the Circlekeeper, for me it seemed she was acting more powerful than any of us.  I was weighing in my mind that her heart was in the right place.   The Circle was decent some people opened up, I wondered how good and deep we would have gone if we were equals.
I don’t know about your style of Circlekeeping – – I would recommend remembering that you are “one” of the members.  Hold equal worth and value for each person.  I try not to ever interupt, with my body or voice.  If you are a keeper who speaks when not holding the talking piece, take a deep reflection on what it might be doing for the process.  Maybe keeping silent will actually do more.