Circle and borders

Beginning our circle practice within the Art of Hosting Advance Practice Course is a good time for me to reflect on the circle practice itself. What does it means for me? How does it makes sense?

When we sit together in a circle we define two spaces: inside the circle and outside the circle. Inside, we put our common intention, our common will and our greater aim. Outside the circle, there are others, our family, our practice field, our work, our world.

Sitting in circle, we are on the fringe of these two spaces and it’s important to be aware to open it a bit. Thus, we  can create a permeable border, enabling circulation between the two, nourishing us, our greater aim and our world outside.

It reminds me a beautiful conversation with Bob Stilger and Samantha Slade in her kitchen, last November, in Montreal. I was trying to explain the concept of borders in permaculture. From the beginning, human groups settle on borders, between forest and river e.g. On the border of Forest for protection and shelter from wind, cold and for food and wood; on the border of River for water, fish, special vegetation. It’s well known that valleys are the most fertile places to live on, with either and sometimes the two, a border with a forest or a river. Permaculture is very fond of borders. Rivers banks are incredibly rich between water and land. The hedges of a garden are ecosystems in themselves, with their particular species of vegetation, insects, birds… without walls. They allow the two other ecosystems on each side to go through. Here, three ecosystems coexist, sharing, exchanging, competing, cooperating, living. In this in-between, hedges create a more rich zone than each side could take alone.

Taking care of hedges, fringes, borders is taking care at the possibility to enrich our various ecosystems whatever they are. We are tempted sometimes to transform them in inviolable barriers to protect us from the unknown or the different forgetting that they are a way to enlargen our vision, to make room for innovation, like sometimes too, we are tempted to keep our circle closed to be and stay comfortable, cozy with good mates without the disturbance of outsiders or unforeseen events.
In this way, taking care of the circle is nourishing ourselves, our world outside as well our greater aim inside.


At the same time, in a circle, we put ourselves on edge. Committed, focused on what is said AND aware of what is unsaid, on what can / could happen inside the circle or what’s coming from outside.

The silence we invite in a circle, to better listen inside ourselves and to better host ourselves as well as others, gives an openess: but also a kind of border, the same I can experience in aïkido or tuishou; the Ma, this tiny, eternal short moment of nothing between the Ka (inhalation) and the Mi (exhalation) during a movement. At this very moment, the future is open, everything is possible; I just have to decide what to do, go right or left, forward or backward, let it pass or not. It’s up to me!
In this way, taking care of the circle is opening a world of possibilities both inside us and between us;  giving a breath for life to flourish.

And it’s exactly what I feel and experience in a circle where a meaningful conversation is alive.

Article and photo by Nadine Jouanen

Photo of hands by Renaud Bertrand

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