PEACE CIRCLE OUTLINE

PEACE CIRCLE INVITATION

Come recharge your spiritual batteries in our monthly peace circle.

For one golden hour a month, leave behind the stressful, mundane world of money, work, politics, news, sports, television, social media, etc. Meet in a small circle of friends to discuss nothing but your inner spiritual life: your progress and challenges, triumphs and obstacles – all the truly important matters we don’t discuss anywhere else. Gain strength and encouragement in the circle. Discover that you are not alone on the path of spiritual growth.

Seasonal larger meetings are held to bring together all the small peace circles for a giant interfaith pot luck, peace circle, and social time. Stand together with people of all spiritual paths to declare in a meaningful way all people of different faiths can live together in peace. Help plan for the success of the Seattle Peace Project, and assist in creating a larger spiritual community unlike anything that currently exists.

If we do not like the direction the world is going, we need to start doing things differently. The same old spiritual practices done in isolation will bring the same limited results, and world events will continue on in the same negative trajectory. If we create interfaith spiritual communities with our peace circles, and succeed in lowering the crime rate in our city, people all around the country and all around the world will want to replicate our model. By creating a new tradition of regular face-to-face “pure conversation” about spiritual improvement on a local level, we can change culture for the better.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;

Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

      -Margaret Mead

If you plan to attend, please bring something to share with the group that gives you strength when you feel down: a story is always good, otherwise another person’s example for you to follow, a poem, a quote from scripture, a work of art, etc.


BASIC PEACE CIRCLE ROUTINE:

(Arrange chairs/people in a circle)

OPENING

(ring bell or chime)

(Facilitator speaks)

Welcome all. Let’s take a moment of silence to clear our minds and get centered.

(one minute later)

Thank you all for coming. We join as a circle of friends: stronger together than we are apart. Within the peace circle, we will focus on spiritual improvement, mentioning mundane affairs only as they pertain to our personal practice. Please, let us begin.

SHARING – Go around the circle one at a time and share our personal inner state of being this month. Basically this sharing can be distilled into an answer to the following questions:

  1. What is the main thing within yourself that is preventing you from realizing your spiritual perfection?
  2. What efforts are you making to correct this imperfection inside yourself?
  3. How is this working out for you?

ENRICHMENT – Go around the circle sharing stories (or poems, scripture, etc.) of what gives you strength this month.  It could be any story: something from your own experiences, something from a religious text, or a story of someone who you take as an example.  Offer up your best gem of practical wisdom.  Think of something that others will appreciate the most, and share it like a mini-motivational speech or a TED talk.

APPRECIATION – Thank everyone else for what they shared with you.  Go around the circle, saying what resonated with you, and how you will try to be better based on the stories you heard..

CLOSING

Thanks everyone for joining the peace circle today. Thank you for your commitment to improving yourselves, and to saving the world by building a community of spiritual friends. Let’s take a moment of silence to assimilate all we’ve learned.

(one minute later)

Let your heart fill up with a warm, golden light.

(wait)

Let the light fill your entire body

(wait)

Now join hands and form an unbroken circle of golden light

(wait)

Let the light shine outward to bless and protect everyone in our families.

(wait)

Extend the circle of light to bless and protect everyone in your neighborhood.

   (wait)

Extend this peaceful blessing to all of greater Seattle.

(wait)

(ring bell/chime)

(Stand and hold hands)

Until next time, health, happiness, and wisdom to everyone. Peace be with you all.

(hugs, handshakes, thank-yous)

(Those who wish can hang out for snacks, tea, conversation, suggestions to improve peace circle meetings.)

GUIDELINES FOR PARTICIPANTS

In order to explain your internal imperfection (anger, for example), it may feel necessary to mention the external situation that is causing the anger.  Frankly, the less you say about this the better.  At most, keep this to a three-sentence summary.  Do not allow yourself to start ranting about problems with money, health, work, relationships, etc., like we often do in ordinary conversations.  The whole point is to avoid doing that, to instead zero in on one of our own internal imperfections, and to focus on what we are doing to correct that imperfection.  Try to spend most of your time in round two describing what you are actually doing to improve yourself (like prayer, self-talk, mindfulness, reading scriptures, visualizing something, etc.).

Please no interruptions or comments when other people are talking.  Further discussion can always be done after the formal meeting is over.

People often say they can’t think of a good story or example to share.  These are all around us if we only pay attention.  Our lives are stories, and everything around us can be expressed as a story.

An example that would be perfect for this type of sharing is something like this:

Lou Gehrig was a famous first baseman who played in the major leagues for seventeen seasons, from 1923 to 1939. He was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He played for the Yankees alongside the great Babe Ruth, and the two were called the “Dynamic Duo.” Gehrig was nicknamed the “Iron Horse” for his dependability. He went to the World Series six times, broke a record by playing 2,130 consecutive games, had the most grand slams ever to that point, and was the first player ever to have his number retired. He remains one of the all-time run producers in the history of baseball. He hit 493 home runs himself and had 1,995 RBIs. In 1937, he was 34 years old, and at the top of his career. He was married, and had everything to live for.

Then in 1938, at the age of just 35, his health started to waver. He felt he was losing strength, and his performance on the field dropped dramatically. By 1939, he was unable to play any longer, he had lost so much strength. He was finally diagnosed with ALS: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a fatal illness for which there was no cure. This disease gradually erodes the motor function of the central nervous system until a person dies. On the Fourth of July, 1939, at Yankee Stadium, Lou Gehrig made a farewell speech to a sold-out crowd. He began by saying: “Fans, for the past two weeks, you’ve been reading about a bad break. Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Then he counted his blessings. He retired gracefully, with no self-pity, and was dead just two years later. Because of him, ALS is now commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

Whenever I feel bad about my lot in life, when I think I have an unfair deal and want to complain, I think of Lou Gehrig. The way he could stand before the world at such a young age, knowing he would soon be gone, and say that he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth is an example to me in how to live properly, and always count my blessings. I think of him often and try to follow the brave, noble example he set for us all. When bad breaks come along, we have to take it gracefully, and continue to be thankful for all that we’ve had, and all we continue to have.

This is the kind of thing we are looking for in terms of this sharing.  Now you come up with your own story of inspiration: something that gives you strength.

GUIDELINES FOR FACILITATORS

Try to keep the size of each circle to about seven people ideally.  If more people show up, divide them into two or more circles.  Too many people in a group means less time for each person to share, or else a much longer meeting.  Also, it is hard to form a bond with so many people right away, remember names, and feel comfortable sharing.

Think in terms of time management.  If seven people go around the circle three times and speak for three minutes each, that is already about one hour for the meeting.

One person talks at a time – no interruptions, please.

Don’t let it turn into a free-for all discussion.

Politely remind people if necessary to not rant about politics, etc. Just steer people back to discussing how the irritants affect them, what they are doing in their spiritual life to cope, etc.

            No recording unless everyone understands they are doing a peace circle for demonstration purposes. In general, what happens in the peace circle stays in the peace circle. People need to feel they can trust the other members to be confidential and supportive.

            Modify the template of your meeting to suit the participants.

            Build in some time for a social gathering afterward if possible so people can cement relationships and build community.  After a peace circle, people will know each other on a deeper level and be ready for more meaningful conversations.  They will be better able to give and receive heartfelt advice, and share more stories with one another.

PEACE CIRCLE PHILOSOPHY

When the good people from all religions unite to pray and meditate for peace, we create a larger community of shared values. This builds a better future, based upon tolerance and brotherly love.

Instead of more isolated or virtual communities, let’s build real community. Let’s provide a forum for both intrafaith and interfaith “pure conversation” about spiritual matters.  Peace circles can strengthen bonds between individuals inside any one group, and can allow people to quickly form close friendships across different groups.  As we are a multi-faith society, we need forums like this to bring people from all different religious groups together to form close bonds for understanding and cooperation.

People who participate in peace circles regularly tend to focus more on their spiritual life because they know they will have a check-in with their circle and want to be able to honestly report their good behavior and self-control.  All month long, participants will be more aware of their thoughts and actions, and be on thinking about what inspirational stories can help motivate themselves and others to be better.

PEACE is not just a cliché. Peace means:

Peace in your heart.

Peace between you and the divine.

Peace within your family.

Peace with your neighbors, workmates, peers.

Peace in your city.

Peace in your nation.

Peace throughout the entire planet.

Peace on earth begins with individuals being wise enough to live in a harmonious, constructive way – constantly learning, improving, and helping others they meet on the path. What we do on a local level influences the whole world. If we set a perfect example that is followed by others, then every cell in the entire organism of human civilization can change for the better, making a whole new world possible. Giant changes in global culture may seem a long way off right now, but the basic mechanism for change is actually quite simple and achievable. Big things start small. Remember that within each of us is an infinite capacity for wisdom. All we need to do is come together in small groups with the goal of bringing forth this wisdom. The rest will flow naturally from this. When the number of people meeting for this purpose grows large enough, a critical mass will result, and positive, large-scale change will necessarily follow. We cannot fail.

A number of participating groups are starting peace circles right away.  Please join us in this movement.  Stay tuned for updates!  Please let me know if you are forming a peace circle.  All are invited to pot-luck gatherings.  Please see the “events” button on the Seattle Peace Project page for details.