EngagePerspectivesBuilding Community Through Circle Practice
Citizenship Icon Dialogue Icon Service Icon Wellness Icon

Building Community Through Circle Practice

Thinking about power in terms of shapes, activates the imagination. Manintonquat here offers a cure for violence and implicitly suggests a way to grow love simply by changing the shape of power, the way we organize leadership, the way we register voice.

tree growth circles

It is clear that the way to heal society of its violence…and lack of love is to replace the pyramid of domination with the circle of equality and respect.

– Manintonquat, Elder of the Assonet Band of the Wampanoag Nation

 

Manintonquat suggests we use a circle. The circle treats everyone with “equality and respect.”  It allows us all to look at each other from vantage points that offer shared positionality. Circles provide a direction that is not top down or bottom up but round and round. Memories of holding hands as children in a circle playing games or as adults dancing in a circle at a wedding make the position full of familiarity and warmth.

Circle practice is the method Pablo Cerdera, Associate Director for Restorative Practices at Penn, uses to elucidate justice and teach about his work. It must be experienced to be fully understood. This means that before he even explains why restorative practices are necessary or how they manifest within the Office of Student Conduct, he spends time building community through circle practice.

It is something that I encourage you to experience yourself for full impact but it means time is given to attuning to everyone’s humanity before it is allotted to learning facts or discussing issues. In the session, we shared about ourselves, we developed a grounding set of norms, we probed the issues together before we were ready then to learn about them from Pablo. The time we spent doing the circle practice better prepared us to learn and made the learning faster and more compelling.

Once you have experienced circle practice, you see with Manintonquat, how “the way to heal society of its violence” really is by forming a circle. In this time where we are witnessing social activism against systemic racial violence as well as the physical and social violence wracked by COVID 19, circle practice provides a unique type of healing. It allows us to share and to listen, it allows us to feel and empathize, it allows us to dream even as we look clearly at reality. But perhaps most of all, even as we may feel fragmented, it offers a picture of unity through a practice that is unifying.

Related Content

Keep Reading

Friends sitting next to lake watching sunset
Podcast

How Perceptions of Support Network Impacts Emotional, Physical and Social Wellbeing of College Students

In this special episode of the The PARK Podcast, Steven-John Kounoupis and Venus Tian of the Icarus Research Group weave together academic research and first-account interviews to deliver a multi-dimensional conversation on social isolation and mental health. The discussion focuses on the nature of social isolation and social networks in college, sharing diverse perspective on how socialization impacts health and how social wellness impacts our ability to have strong connections with others. Learn More
Photograph of old house
Blog

Contemplative Social Movements and How We See

The desire to change society resonates well with Gen Z for whom political activism is a generational hallmark. John Della Volpe’s book, Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling their Fear and Passion to Save America, uses survey data to demonstrate how Gen Z is using democratic means to voice their frustrations with older generations’ inaction on pressing social issues. “For them, America at times has resembled a dystopia. But they won’t sit back and take it. They’ve decided to fight their own war against injustice and inequality right here at home.” From climate change, to gun control, racial equality to reproductive rights, Gen Z is speaking out and showing up to contentious political battles. Learn More
book cover
Blog

A Book Club Where You Don't have to Read the Book to Feel Included in the Conversation

Nineteenth surgeon general of the United States Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, traveled the nation to contextualize loneliness. He listened to voices often unheard, met with change-makers, and started a wellness group with friends. His findings toward a connected life served as a starting point toward a conversation on empathy in this year's SNF Paideia fellows’ book club.Learn More