Suha’s investigation into Listening continues by telling the story behind the Circle Project.
The article A Thousand Ways of Listening – “I like it hot!” written in January and published here was not born in a day. Rather, it was born out of an encounter with a “project” that had begun eons ago by our great ancestors, the primitive peoples who gathered in circles, re-proposed in its essentiality by Prem Siraj, aka Michael Shafron, as a model for the future of human communication, the Circle Project: An Experiment in Freedom.
At a particular moment in his life, Michael had felt the need to create a space where it was possible to speak and be heard, a different way of communicating.
So he began, in 2017, to hold a series of weekly meetings to which residents were invited to his villa in Ibiza.
Their names (written on slips of paper before the start of the meeting) were drawn by lot. The person called would then get up and take their seat in front of the audience. They had 5 minutes to occupy the space and tell their story, while all others listened in silence. And so on, one after the other.
The Circle Project was born.
I had met Michael in Pune, in 1997, and we stayed in touch after that. He sent me beautiful videos of the meetings and I was fascinated by the spirit of them. He couldn’t invite me, as I was still living in Pune, but I had always hoped to attend one day.
I was struck by the fact that it was an unlabelled, un-themed, free meeting; a space left for everyone to choose whatever they wanted to talk about, and how to do it. Michael sent me two lines on how to organise it and I held one in Pune with friends. It was, I think in 2018.
I vividly have in my memory Osho’s affirmation: “I am existence,” that infinite purity of presence that embraces everything, visible and invisible living beings that has since become my inner sky. Perhaps it is difficult to explain and I am well aware of it, but when I heard Osho say those words for me it meant everything was included, the sacred and the mundane. Since then, to me nothing is excluded, nothing is separated.
Returning alone to Paris from Pune, just before the first lockdown, I wanted to experiment and test, in a different environment, what I had assimilated during the years spent in Osho’s Commune: that “casting out nines” test I had loved so much bent over multiplication tables as a child. But where could I find the right space and the companions to mirror me?
Meditation had created breaches, but I now realise that there were walls of obsolete beliefs to be broken through. And it is true that I did not know how to listen…
On 6 May 2020, Michael invited me to attend the meeting that he had moved to Zoom because of the pandemic. I had found what I was looking for. Even the chance, starting if you like from the mundane, to see if I could find the sacred!
Michael sent the invitation to many other friends from all over the world and we met once a week. It was in English – and many of the native speakers were difficult for me to understand…
The power and elegance of the Circle lies in its exquisite simplicity: sitting and listening, without interruption, and telling, when called upon, ‘your’ story for 5 minutes. Authenticity and pure listening. The guiding thread is the freedom of expression in dreaming and giving oneself. And I took this freedom and enjoyed it to the full.
Each thought became a word, a seed planted in the furrows of my life. Listening to my own voice tell about myself, in front of a listening audience, I felt I existed. It was an opportunity to question myself, to ask myself many whys, to spur me on to bringing out a deep yearning that was asking to be expressed.
I felt that the circle supported me in any situation I could find myself in. I felt safe in that space and had confidence in my process without knowing exactly where it was taking me.
I remember once, when words failed me, I chose to use my five minutes in silence. Before the time was up I felt myself crying in despair, without knowing why. Sometimes you have to wait for the words to come…
The facilitator is the one who launches the meeting, opens the circle by reminding the participants of its modalities, and closes it. He or she ensures that the structure is respected.
“I like it hot!” was the title I gave to the first article. It was about an experience I was able to have only thanks to practicing the Circle for the last two years. The Circle has become, for me, the way to learn the One thousand ways of listening!
And that’s not all… In November 2020 I launched a circle in Italian, inviting Italian friends to Zoom twice a month. I run it as a facilitator and continue my meditation from there…
Being a facilitator is a poetic practice of humility: my heart beats in unison with the others’, I see my limits and my beauty, and I know that the closing moment will bring with it the ever-changing scent of unexpected co-creation… Magic!
And that’s not just me saying it!
The narratives take us by surprise every time for their diversity, wisdom and poetry: they inspire an unexpected glance, a sudden emotion, a good laugh; unique, separate, but not divided. What we hear from others might trigger unexpected thoughts and emotions, and what we will say when our turn comes can be affected by it. We are one.
The mind expands and the heart opens in the enchantment of this unity experienced by all. There is an air of freedom, a lightness of being that embraces everything and every living being, honouring them for what they are, just as they are.
Listening can spontaneously become a way of life, a renewed stimulus to love what is unknown. It is not a technique, but an art. It is enough to allow the onion of conditioning and obsolete beliefs to lose, one by one, its many skins.
When I ‘listen’ I am completely empty, I know nothing and I let myself be inspired by the faces, the looks, the breaths of the people in my life.
And I am surprised by an immeasurable bliss.
Italian original has been published in Osho Times – www.oshotimes.it – Featured image: sculptures by Manfred Flucke – facebook.com
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