It is the second Saturday of the month. Five individuals sip morning beverages and nibble on nuts, fruit and cheese around the kitchen counter. Greetings are exchanged. There is chatter: inquiries about trips and children, complaints about traffic and parking, upcoming events. Voices are friendly. Smiles and laughter are evident.
Then comes the invitation to cross the threshold into the family room. The group gathers around a candle centered in a sculpture of figures fused together. Cell phones are turned off. The door is closed. Bodies settle into chairs and a sofa. The group shifts to a community of quiet spaciousness within and without. Personas recede. The confidential sacredness of Kairos time is felt and entered. Several participants take turns sharing their stories.
One woman’s smiles turn into creases of sadness, a slumped posture, and tears of a hurting heart. The circle holds her in quiet witnessing of the pain of her truth. No rush to rescue or to fix. Simply a gentle holding through attentive listening. Following a time of silent prayer, she has another opportunity to deepen her story. Slowly, allowing long pauses between speakers, the circle offers feedback such as images, body language, a quality detected, a verse from scripture or an insight that bubbled up in the stillness. There is a time to honor her sacred story through silence and prayer. At the close, a gifted release can be seen in her relaxed face and genuine smile.
Another woman discovers a buried grief as she misses the special relationship of honesty, despite differing opinions, that she had with a friend who died ten years ago. Today’s political climate makes the friendship a treasure lost. Yet remembering, naming the many blessings received, starts to lift the unexpected burden of grief and leads to a joyful appreciation of what was.
A woman dares to relate her anxious concern about a relationship at home even as she is in the midst of anguish and puzzlement. This is a new experience. She has sometimes reported a difficult story to a trusted individual after it had been resolved. Never before has she spoken when everything remains in flux and incomplete. Her vulnerability is held in the circle with understanding and care. The threshold is crossed again and confidentiality reaffirmed as the morning ends. On the drive home, though, she suddenly notices a shift with new energy and hope despite that fact the situation has not changed.
Crossing the threshold on these mornings, what is really going on? Finding wholeness. Experiencing grace. Sacred encounters with the Holy Source, the Holy One, in our midst.
by Sue Gibbons, New College Berkeley Spiritual Director