Welcome to my ongoing (fortnightly-ish) seasonal, circle infused musings. You may wish to grab a cuppa, your pen and journal and cosy up with me for my sharing, reflections, updates, invitations, suggestions and offerings, or you may prefer to have a quick scroll to see the headings, and trust what draws your attention. xx
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Hello dear Circler
Whether you’re springing into Summer, or falling into the descent of Winter, I’m sending blessings your way.
Last week we visited friends at their farm and it was so nourishing to walk the land, stroll amongst the dandelions (there are so many this year), marvel at the apple and pear tree blossom, listen to the river and sip on nettle tea.
When we moved to Devon we knew nobody. We arrived amidst the lockdowns and in many ways we are still arriving. In those first months I read Scatterlings by Martin Shaw. In this book he shares the mysteries and mythologies of the Devonian landscape. One of the guiding questions in the book is
What is the difference between being from a place and of a place?
I love this question, together with his invitation to let the land claim you.
This is part of being new to a place; it takes time to be claimed, to nurture friendships, to tend to the desire to belong. And it takes a decision to stay and let life unfold.
Our friend’s farm project is a reclamation of an old garden centre that they are gently bringing back to life, growing fruit and vegetables bio-dynamically, and creating space for community events.
Last Sunday, River and I returned to the farm for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day! We experienced the magic of the Camera Obscura and how an image is formed without a ‘lens’ and take pinhole photographs using a simple pinhole camera.
During our time there, River asked why the image was upside down and I absolutely loved the answer that was given. Our guide and teacher invited him to hold the question and to keep exploring and playing with it. He shared that so often we are given a convenient answer (that isn’t actually a complete answer) and then we file that away as “fact”. How much more interesting to carry the question within you and see what arises.
This reminded me of how I use “unanswerable questions” in my Circles. I first learnt this idea from Danielle Dulsky. These are questions to which we don’t yet have an answer (not that there is no answer). I have embraced them as one approach to seeking insight in discernment Circles.
When we gather for our Wisdom Council in The Grove, Grovers are invited to bring an “unanswerable question” in relation to their circle work. These are questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no, and invite us to intuitively offer reflection and insights. In this way the questioner receives the benefit of multiple interpretations and perspectives, and collectively we all receive the spark of inspiration.
How Charging for Circles Honours Our Work and Supports Our Communities
My approach to holding sharing circles is holistic and nurturing, rooted in my lived experience, modalities, cultural heritage and traditions, and informed by the rich and ancient wisdom and stories of the lands of my ancestors and where I now call home, whilst honouring the diverse backgrounds and experiences of those I support.
Since Circles found me and I started holding them in my local community, I knew I was responding to something deep and ancient within me; a soul calling.
Over the years my Circle work has evolved in unexpected ways, most enjoyably in supporting others to create their own unique, powerful and transformative circles by being the truest expression of who they are.
My love and devotion to the tradition, process and architecture of sharing circles is expressed through my courses, one-one-one circle companionship, guest teaching, my current on-line membership The Grove, and the upcoming Sacred Grief Retreat (I’ll share more about soon).
For as long as I have been in the on-line business space I have repeatedly come across two overlapping narratives about those of us who charge for our Circles (and other offerings that are considered soul work, or a calling) and include them as part of our business model.
Firstly, there is the idea that we shouldn’t charge for Circles and that in doing so, we are commodifying or exploiting an ancient, sacred and healing tradition*.
And secondly, if we do choose to charge, our Circles must be affordable / financially accessible for everyone.
*Before I elaborate further, I want to clarify that I am not talking about the harmful practice of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation refers to the act of taking elements or aspects of a culture that does not belong to you and using them in a way that is often disrespectful or harmful to the culture's originators. This can include things like using cultural symbols, dress, language, or traditions without proper understanding, acknowledgement, or permission from the people whose culture it belongs to, for profit or personal gain.
Should we charge for our Circles?
There is no “should”; each of us has the agency to make our own choices and do what feels aligned with our principles and resources. Here, I am advocating for those who desire to include Circles in their business model and offering reassurance that charging for Circles is a legitimate and ethical choice.
Circles are a powerful technology for building community, fostering connection, and supporting collective healing. It is my experience that by incorporating them into our business models, we’re not trying to commodify or exploit them - we’re seeking to share their benefits with as many people as possible in a way that is sustainable and generative for us and our communities.
I'm incredibly grateful to have the privilege of doing what I love - running a business that has Circles at its’ heart, and working with wellbeing practitioners and space holders, who desire Circles to be a flourishing and fulfilling aspect of their business, and who share my commitment to inclusivity, social, and economic justice.
When we charge for our Circles, we're acknowledging the time, effort, expertise and energy that we pour into the planning, creating and holding of these sacred micro-events. In addition, there are costs involved with holding Circles, from marketing, to venue hire (or on-line platform charges) to providing supplies (from food to candles!).
Charging for Circles enables us to be financially supported for our work, and to invest more resources into the communities we’re supporting (or co-creating).
By asking participants to contribute financially to their experience, we're valuing our work and establishing a sense of respect for ourselves, each other and our wider community.
When we charge for circles, we're creating a sustainable model that enables us to provide high-quality experiences and support to our communities.
Affordability and Financial Accessibility
If we can agree that charging for our Circles is beneficial for us and our communities, do we need to make them affordable / financially accessible to everyone within our communities?
I desire to help co-create a world in which we can all thrive, and that happens through economic justice.
For most of the practitioners that I work with, their Circles are their lowest cost offer, and when they come to me, they are often asking if they are a viable part of their business.
Perhaps this stems from a lurking shadow that we’re not “allowed” to receive in exchange for sacred and healing experiences such as Circles (but if we look across history and cultural traditions this is simply not true). In our times, that translates to not being allowed to charge (much) money.
I think it’s also interesting to recognise that in many areas of services, the fewer places available for something, the higher the price. Most of the practitioners that I work with hold small intimate Circles of 8 - 14 people, and yet their Circles are a low-cost option.
Over the years I have explored many different pricing models in my commitment to economic justice, and I’ve experimented with a variety of strategies that I’ve seen people share. There is more to economic justice than pricing.
Each of us needs to navigate what is the right approach for our business in alignment with our values and principles.
I have found Kelly Diels’ approach to feminist business practices and economic justice very helpful, and I often return to her words that:
…..if the feminist running the business isn’t being taken care of, it’s not a feminist business.
Economic justice isn’t just about making our Circles affordable or financially accessible to everyone (and indeed this might not be the right goal for solo-practitioner-businesses).
Instead we can contribute to economic justice in a number of ways, such as:
pricing your Circles in a way that reflects the exchange of time, money and energy that they take, and contributes to you flourishing (don’t exploit yourself!)
creating and offering free resources, such as social media content, your newsletter or blog or podcast
offering no-cost payment plans (for a circles series or retreat-style event that is a bigger financial investment)
offering a payment scale so those who can afford to pay more, have the opportunity to contribute towards places for those with fewer financial resources
once you’ve reached a sustainable revenue point for that Circle, offering a certain number of spaces for an alternative exchange or pay-what-you-can
implementing a pay-it-forward scheme, where participants can choose to buy a second place that can be offered to someone, or make a donation towards a scholarship or bursary fund
contribute a percentage of your revenue to causes that are relevant and important to you and what your business stands for
applying for funding to offer your Circles as part of wellbeing or mental health programs for other organisations or funding bodies (your eligibility will depend on you business’ legal identity)
Our Circles can be containers for radical collective care and sacred activism, whilst supporting us to flourish and contributing to economic justice.
I don’t have all the answers and I can’t possibly know what approach will work best for you. I do know that watching kind, generous, compassionate people who have heaps of experience and useful skills and who are already marginalised by the current systems we exist in, exploit themselves in an attempt to be affordable is heart breaking.
This weekend Britain is set to spend £100 - £250 m (I’ve read different estimates depending on what is being taken into account) for the King’s coronation whilst the majority of the population are experiencing a cost of living crisis (make it make sense!!). Money is an intriguing and complex topic.
I’m reading Decolonizing Wealth, indigenous wisdom to heal divides and restore balance by edgar villanueve, (which has been on my bookshelf for a while!) in which he says:
Money should be a tool of love, to facilitate relationships, to help us thrive, rather than hurt and divide us. If it’s used for sacred, life-giving, restorative purposes, it can be medicine.
I would love to know you thoughts around this (obviously nuanced topic).
What’s happening in Circle School?
Invitation to join The Grove (open until the end of Friday 5th May)
The Grove is (not surprisingly) my favourite place on-line. I created it because I was looking for a membership space grounded in connection, co-creation and collaboration.
I wanted to be part of a space that celebrates the radical principles of sharing circles, whilst also honouring the journey of creating and growing a business which contributes to economic justice.
I facilitate the Grove, but it is co-created for, and with the Grovers (members) who are wellbeing practitioners, community organisers and creatives who hold Circles.
Together we are seeking to cultivate a brave space in which we are resourced and supported to reach out across our communities, and navigate our interwoven and entangled world in these times of transition and change.
Our space and gatherings are created with the intention to foster deeper connections between Grovers, offer support in relation to our circle skills, creativity, business development, marketing, visibility and community building, and to have a clear rhythm to each month.
In meaningful ways we are deepening our capacity for relationship with ourselves, each other and the greater whole, whilst sustaining our businesses and sharing our work with the world.
This is a unique on-line membership specifically created for wellbeing practitioners who hold Circles, and desire them to be a flourishing and fulfilling part of your business.
3-things that I’m delighting in at the moment:
Watching the beautiful reindeer calves at Cairngormreindeer
Catching up with the Knotwork Storytelling Podcast hosted by Marisa Goudy:
Baking! I’ve always loved baking and recently I've been sharing this love with River. We’re planning on baking some scrumptious Raspberry Bakewell Muffins from The Sweet Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer for our Mother & Son Circle tomorrow.
I hope that whatever this season holds for you, you are able to tend to yourself and the communities you are part of with compassion and courage whilst receiving love, nourishment and support.
With you in Circle in these (r)evolutionary times
p.s. I love sharing books and I love supporting Indie bookshops. If you can’t get to a local bookshop or prefer to order on-line, the links that I share take you to bookshop.org. On their site you can choose a specific bookshop to support and they’ll receive 30% of the cover price (or almost all of the profit) or, 10% of the cover price contributes to an earnings pool that is evenly distributed among participating independent bookshops each month. In addition, I am a member of their affiliate program which means I receive 10% commission and an additional 10% goes to Indie bookshops. So it’s a win for book lovers and bookshops.
I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions regarding economic justice Mitlé.
Hello Mitlé! Thank you for such a thoughtful and carefully nuanced piece about the economic/financial aspects. I like where you landed.
It took me years to feel comfortable charging for circle/workshop gatherings. The cost to me of me time/energy and sometimes venue fees is real. What helped me over the hurdle most is wanting to support a sustainable model-- because it’s better for me and for other practitioners/creatives. Charging fees is one way I can encourage and normalize that there is value received and effort expended. I’m a big fan of sliding scale or pay-what-you-can. I also offer self-selected scholarships for my retreats. Finding balance in all of it is an ongoing dance, right! 💛