Parker J. Palmer has done ground-breaking work developing circles of trust, where participants are encouraged not to judge or fix, but through reflection and sharing, find their own “inner teachers.” Parker advocates participants use “third things” for respectful and evocative inquiry. This means using metaphorical materials such as essays, poems, songs, movie clips, nature etc. The individuals use quiet, thoughtful time to reflect on the meaning of these “third things” in their own lives in terms of purpose and relationships. Then, if they would like, they share their own truth into the circle which is an open and safe space for all individuals in the circle of trust.
I was trained to be a facilitator in Dallas, TX, at a summer seminar intensive that took place over two weeks led by Elaine Sullivan, who was personally trained and endorsed by Parker. My training group consisted entirely of spiritual directors. Although our training was not fundamentally different, we did often discuss and share ideas that would be particular to facilitators of spiritual formation groups.
I facilitated a pilot Parent Circle of Trust at Good Shepherd School and Church in Dallas, TX, for parents of middle and high school students this past school year. Our observation has been that in today’s fractured and frenzied world, parents need quiet, disciplined space to quiet the noise within them- and around them-where no one is judging or fixing them. Instead, parents need to be encouraged to hear the voice of their inner teacher. Christians believe that the ability to listen is due to the Holy Spirit. According to my mentor, Elaine Sullivan, I was the only facilitator working specifically with parents in circles of trust. We titled these groups: We Parent Who We Are.
With my long tenure of teaching directing me, I am also offering circles of trust to educational institutions to help teachers discover who they are in order to be more effective teachers in the classroom.
For more information on Parker J. Palmer consult his book:
A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward the Undivided Life