Soul Circle


“Caution: the loss of the way you’ve known yourself up to this moment is the price you pay for admission into the journey of your soul.” – Jonathan Gustin

Dear Friends,

Thank you for agreeing to participate in my Soul Circle. I’m going to reach out to you soon (if I haven’t already) to set up a date when we can all meet for the first Soul Circle. In preparation for the first circle, I would be grateful if each of you would listen to the first recording and review the guidelines below.

Soul Circle – Introduction & Meeting #1

Note: there will be a short recording related to each of the meetings, for you to listen to.

You are welcome to read the attached essay Discovering Purpose and/or watch this short film Discover Your Purpose.

Soul Circle Guidelines

1. Clear Intention

Allow a picture to form clearly in your imagination of a group of humans gathering around a campfire (which we’ve done for thousands of years) with the express intention to support a friend’s inquiry of “what do I do with this one wild, precious life” (so well stated by poet Mary Oliver). The circle of supporters is mostly quiet, letting their attention rest on the campfire and on the friend’s searching process. What is this “searching process”? Your friend (the one engaged in the Purpose Discovery Program) allows their full attention to be drawn into their longing to know their Vision, Gifts, Message, and Mission of their life. The friend’s attention is 90% interior, she is making herself available to images, symbols and insights from her soul. The circle of supporters’ function and offering is to bear witness to the friend’s inquiry (and her insights), as well as to bring their presence/attention to the friend, to create a safe and potent container for her to explore the age old question, “What is my life’s purpose?” The friend for whom the Soul Circle has been created has made this commitment: “For the next year of my life, I commit myself to finding and embodying my life’s purpose.”

Imagine, a friend has honored you by requesting if you’d attend the birth of her baby. What does a trusted friend do as the birthing process unfolds? On a practical level – not much, as it’s the doula, and midwife or obstetrician, that is in charge of assisting the “mechanics of the birth.” Instead, what you do is hold space for them through giving them silent permission to trust their own wisdom, offering any reflections with humility.

If you have ever held someone while they were dying or attended a birth, you may already know something about holding space. Mostly, it’s just showing up, with a quiet attention that says, “I’m listening to you deeply as you move through this process” – whether the process is birth, dying or purpose discovery.

2. Clear Limits

As a Soul Circle we commit to an end point – twelve months, at which point we will “close” the circle. The twelve months are complete on the one-year anniversary of my first session with my Purpose Guide (August, 2021).

3. Meetings

Our 7 meetings (75 min. each) will be scheduled between now and Feb 2021. The closing meeting (#7) will fall on the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the program. Our first four meetings will coincide with specific modules of the 12-module Purpose Discovery Process.

  1. Meeting #1 – Module 3 (September 13 – September 26)
  2. Meeting #2 – Module 6 (October 25 – November 7)
  3. Meeting #3 – Module 8 (November – December 5, in the week before the Soul Quest)
  4. Meeting #4 – Module 9 (December 6 – December 19, day after the Soul Quest)
  5. Meeting #5 – beginning of March (integration during February)
  6. Meeting #6 – June (embodiment has begun)
  7. Meeting #7 – mid-August (1 year anniversary)

4. Skilled Leadership

A Soul Circle requires that everyone participating helps create a safe space. Additionally, one person will be invited by the group to be the facilitator. The friend will decide whether to rotate this duty or let one person hold the role for most (or all) of the meetings. The facilitator has three duties:

  1. Be the timekeeper.
  2. Read aloud the Common Agreements (see below) at the beginning of each meeting.
  3. When necessary, gently remind members who are straying outside of the agreements to “come back.” For instance, “Hey Jane, I want to warmly, gently and sweetly remind you that a Soul Circle meeting is about providing our friend with a safe place to engage in the inner searching process. Therefore, as a Soul Circle we want to mostly stay in silence, beaming gigawatts of presence, and only occasionally offering a question that will deepen her experience, as opposed to offering mini-lectures, personal anecdotes, advice, our opinions or ‘therapy’.”

5. Common Agreements

The shared intention of our Soul Circle is to create a conducive place for the friend’s soul to show up and offer its wisdom. Agreements include:

  1. Deep listening and deep respect.
  2. Lots of space for silence.
  3. An attitude of openness and receptivity.
  4. Mirroring from the heart, not the head.
  5. When in doubt: slow down, attend to the rhythm of Soul.
  6. No ping-pong conversations, “therapy”, mini-lectures, advice giving, etc

6. Structure

0-10 min – Facilitator reads Common Agreements & Silence

The facilitator rings a bell and slowly reads the “Common Agreements.” Then, without comment or discussion, the group rests together in silence and stillness. In these 10 minutes the group potentizes the field, and the circle slowly melts into the “we-space”, the intersubjective field of awareness.

10-20 min – Friend begins “What is happening in my purpose discovery process is…”

The friend begins, “What is happening in my purpose discovery process is…” and continues to speak for approximately ten minutes.

20-60 min – “Heart” of the meeting

Two main things occur during the “heart” of the meeting.

  1. Active Inquiry & Active Listening: The group brings its presence to bear on behalf of the friend’s intent to glimpse a facet of her purpose (aka, “soul encounter”.) The potentised field allows the friend to engage in the searching process. While the friend is engaged in the inner work of inquiry, the Soul Circle is engaged in active listening. What is “active listening”? It is a way of listening that draws the speaker more deeply into his own words, thoughts, emotions and questions. Parker J. Palmer (who coined the term “Circle Of Trust” and from which the Soul Circle is partly derived,) writes about the importance of taking up inquiry in a community setting: “How can we skillfully take up the challenge of choosing wholeness? The challenge of becoming whole is best met within a practice community. We cannot embrace that challenge all alone, at least, not for long: we need trustworthy relationships, tenacious communities of support, if we are to sustain the journey toward an undivided life. That journey has solitary passages, and yet is simply too arduous to take without the assistance of others. And because we have such a vast capacity for self-delusion, we will inevitably get lost en route without the correctives from outside of ourselves.”
  2. Deepening The Inquiry: If the Spirit moves someone in the circle, they may offer reflection, mirroring or a question that deepens the theme that the friend shared. As the Quaker tradition of the clearness committee puts its, we gather to, “Listen each other’s souls into discovery.” The Soul Circle follows the friend, just as the friend follows the Mystery. The Soul Circle never tries to lead the friend into a “cool” or interesting direction.

60-65 min – Silence & Deepening The Field of Presence

While the Soul Circle rests in the silence and stillness together, the friend metabolizes/digests what has occurred for her. The rest of the group deepens the field of presence, silently offering blessings and prayers, that the friend finds the courage to live the insights she has discovered during the meeting.

65-75 min – Feeling Complete

Each person, starting with the friend, has the option of saying something that allows them to feel complete with the meeting.

Soul Circle Meetings

Soul Circle #1 Theme – How do I hold myself back?

Soul Circle #1 Audio

Here is the first audio again. Please listen to before the first meeting.

How do I hold myself back?

The “friend” will want to report/explore some of what they learned in Module 3 about their Default Purpose.

Soul Circle #2 Theme – What am I willing to relinquish to make space for…?

Soul Circle #2 Audio

Please listen to before the second meeting.

What am I willing to relinquish to make space for something utterly new and generative to come in during my Soul Quest?

You might use some of these inquiries (from Module 6 Practice 4 – Simplifying Your Life) to get you started:

  1. What relationships/friends get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
  2. What activities get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
  3. What roles get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
  4. What possessions get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
  5. Surrender of: What beliefs about how I was supposed to be and how the world was supposed to work do I need to surrender?
  6. Surrender to: What deep and wild passions (buried as they might be) do I need to surrender to?

Soul Circle #3 Themes – Death Lodge Ceremony & Declaration of Intent

Soul Circle #3 Audio

Please listen to before the third meeting.

This Soul Circle will take place right before the Soul Quest.

1. Death Lodge Ceremony

Create your own self-designed death lodge ceremony. Preparation:  Read “Making Peace with the past: the death lodge ceremony” in Soulcraft (pages 105-108).

2. Declaration of Intent

Read your “Letter to Mystery/Soul” (Module 9 Practice 1) to your Soul Circle, describing why you are questing, what kind of support/help/understanding you are seeking, and what your concerns and fears are.

Soul Circle #4 Theme – Incorporation Ceremony

Soul Circle #4 Audio

Please listen to before the fourth meeting.

This will be an Incorporation Ceremony. Tell the story of your quest. A few suggestions:

  1. Imagine this scene…it’s 50,000 B.C.E, you’ve fasted, prayed and Quested. You come back to an “elder’s council.” They have known you all your life. They listen to your story and reflect back (“mirror”) the deeper themes about what you are about to share. These elders are midwives, helping you give birth to a new story, more generative and powerful than the one you have outgrown. It’s not all “a bed of roses” for the participants of your elders council. They are gaining a new elder as you embrace version 2.0 of your story, but they are also losing an old friend, the way you used to be/act in their presence. You may notice that they are a little sad about having to say goodbye to the “former you.”
  2. How to tell your story? Consider telling it as if it were a dream. Allow everything you speak of to be a “character in your quest dream.”
  3. Whatever you do, DO NOT belittle what you received. Treat it as a gift from the imaginal realm. You may not understand, that what you received was actually a diamond, until you share the images and symbols and events of your Quest.
  4. Slow down. When in doubt, slow the telling down…

Soul Circle Meeting #5 Theme – Rebirth Ceremony

Your Solo Threshold time hasn’t completely slipped away…yet. For this meeting, plan to do the following:

  1. Restate some of the main images/messages/wisdom that you received during your Threshold ceremony. Do not share them and all what you received as a mere memory. Do share as if you are living this image/wisdom in the moment. Go slowly, until you feel the image/wisdom occupying you.
  2. Restate what you let go of in the Death Lodge Ceremony. Let your Soul Circle know what you intended to leave behind. Update them as to how successfully you were doing this.
  3. Restate what you are being born into. Instead of merely saying this out loud, be still and quiet until you feel occupied by what wants to be reborn as you. From that place, you can then begin to speak.
  4. Recap: This Soul Circle meeting is the time for integrating what you received during your Threshold Ceremony (and the Purpose Discovery Process in general). The next meeting will be about Embodiment.

Soul Circle Meeting #6 Theme – Purpose Project

For this meeting, plan to do the following:

  1. Speak out loud what project(s) want to be birthed through you.
  2. Imagine a life where 1-3 years from now you have lived into this project. Share with your Soul Circle what you see your life looking like, but especially what it feels like.
  3. Between the end of meeting #6 and the final meeting #7, journal weekly about the details of your project.

Soul Circle Meeting #7 Theme – Embodying the Purpose Project

In this meeting you will declare to your Soul Circle what purpose you will commit to in the next 1-3 years AND what your meta-purpose is.

  1. Share the details of your Purpose Project with your Soul Circle. Get into the nitty-gritty of the how and when you will give this project the time it deserves.
  2. Share with your Soul Circle what the meta-purpose (Vision, Task/Mission) of this project is.
  3. Conduct a self-designed ceremony to mark the 1 year anniversary of your starting the Purpose Discovery Program.