Subud Kejiwaan Gatherings
A “circle” is a group of people meeting in a sitting circle format to share information about what may be intensely personal issues. Moderating a circle is an art and a science. If moderated well, a circle can be a safe place where deep exchange can take place. This writing begins with a summary of the circle process for use by a Moderator at a Subud Kejiwaan gathering and follows with a more detailed explanation of the process.
Summary of the Circle Process
- Begin with a quiet period
- Secure full circle attention – and begin with thanks to participants
- Explain circle process – a safe and efficient way to share personal information; an energetic cell; a setting where emotions may be amplified
- Emphasize that circle should be a safe place and comments are confidential
- Precisely state sharing topic
- Set time expectations – per speaker and for the circle
Moderator Secures “Buy In” from all Participants to Each Principle Below
- Secure attention and “Buy In” — pause before first speaking; get everyone’s attention; don’t speak if you don’t feel to do so [Secure Buy In from all –via a “yes” or a nod]
- Please maintain confidentiality – keep the circle a safe place [Secure Buy In]
- Speak in order – no cross talk or interruptions [Secure Buy In]
- Please keep remarks “on point” on the agreed topic [Secure Buy In]
- Speak from the “I” [Secure Buy In]
- Please do not try to “help” another person, unless specifically requested [Secure Buy In]
- Stay in the circle – physically and with full attention to the speaker [Secure Buy In]
- The Moderator may interject if a participant forgets these agreements [Secure Buy In]
Discussion of the Circle Process
Moderator Introduction – Quiet Period
When everyone is seated and settled, and before introductory comments, the Moderator should request a quiet period. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to ask a helper or helper(s) in attendance to start the program with a quiet period. The purpose of the quiet period is to help facilitate all participants being present and well prepared to speak from their authentic selves. After a “quiet period” – when the atmosphere of the room feels calm and ready — the Moderator begins with an explanation of the dynamics of a circle.
Moderator Introduction – Thanks and Explanations
Thanks. The Moderator thanks everyone for their attendance and anticipated attention. (If the Moderator consistently feels and models gratitude, it will have a positive effect on the circle.)
Explain How a Circle Works. The Moderator explains that the circle provides a private and safe place to share. The process and format provide an opportunity for participants to efficiently meet each other and to share personal information in a secure way, provided that everyone follows some simple principles that we will review in a few minutes.
On a deeper level, when a circle is a reasonable size, the participants have time, and everyone commits to being present, the circle becomes an energy field. The participants can form and create strong energetic and emotional connections with each other. When a circle and the sharing go deep, the assembled participants can become like a single energetic cell. As one person in the circle processes an issue, others in the circle who have the same issue may also experience connection and resolution.
Topic(s). The Moderator explains at the outset what the topic of each person’s remarks should address. The topic should be clear and specific. The topic will depend on the purpose and composition of the group and whether it will reconvene over the course of the kejiwaan event. The more precise and personal the topic, the greater the opportunity for an impactful circle. Here are some examples of topic(s) for a circle and follow up circles:
- The topic today will be for you to briefly introduce yourself and then for you to briefly share the most important issues or challenges you are facing right now in your life. Note: the Moderator may ask each participant to repeat their name each time they speak, a helpful prop if the circle is large and participants do not each other well. [Current Life Challenges]
- The topic today will be for you to introduce yourself and then share what, if any, hopes or expectations you have for this meeting. [Hopes for Meeting]
- The topic today will be to share the most meaningful test, experience, or receiving that you have had [in the morning session/yesterday]. [Sharing Testing]
- The topic today will be to share one “rose” and one “thorn” (if you must) from the gathering. (This can be a good topic to close an event.). [Roses and Thorns]
Time. The Moderator explains how much time is allocated to the circle and asks for everyone to be mindful of that time. The Moderator should help set clear expectations about the beginning and end time for the meeting.
Circle Protocols – Agreement to Process
The Moderator may then reiterate that the circle should be a private and safe place and for it to be effective. The Moderator may then ask for the participants to agree to some specific procedures:
- Secure Attention – and Buy In. The Moderator directs his or her attention around the circle, slowly, with eye contact to individual participants, and makes sure that he/she has everyone’s attention. After modeling this method of getting everyone’s attention, the Moderator asks that everyone, before they speak, first make sure that they have the circle’s attention. This may mean going around the circle and first getting eye contact, though not necessarily with every everyone if the circle is large.
After getting everyone’s attention, the Moderator goes around the circle (seated, of course!) and asks each participant to agree to follow this procedure:
“Please make sure you have the circle’s attention before you begin to speak. Will each of you agree to do so?”
The Moderator then goes around the circle and makes sure that each participant answers with an audible “yes” or clear nod of agreement [“Buy In”]. (When participants actually agree to a process, they usually follow it – and they are much less likely to take offense if they have gone off course and then are reminded of their agreement.)
- Maintain Confidentiality. Everything said in the circle is private and confidential. The Moderator amplifies on the importance of this rule, to create a safe space and explains that the privacy rule applies even to casual conversations among Participants in the course of breaks. What is said in the circle remains in the circle.
The Moderator secures Buy In to this principle.
- Speak In Order. The Moderator explains that he/she will go around the circle, in order (such as clockwise) and provide each participant an opportunity to speak. The Moderator asks each participant to pause for some seconds before (i) asking for everyone’s attention and (ii) then speaking. Please try limit your comments to [2 minutes or so]. [Suggested time guidelines will depend on topic(s) and circle size].
The Moderator should ask for participants to not speak out of turn.
The Moderator should explain and even reiterate that if a participant does not feel a need to speak, please don’t feel you have to do so.
The Moderator explains that under no circumstances should there be “cross talk,” i.e., other conversations going on between Participants while a different Participant has the floor – or commenting from across the room on what someone has said. (The Moderator may explain that it can be fun and tempting to interject, but doing so may disrupt the flow and divert the group.)
The Moderator secures Buy In.
- Please Keep Remarks “On Point.” The Moderator may reiterate the (agreed) topic and secure Buy In, so that participants will make their best efforts to address their remarks to that topic only.
- Speaking from the “I.” When you speak, please speak only in the first person, from your “I”, about you. The topic today is not about what other people or organizations are doing wrong or right. Your speaking should be about you. (Circles are much more effective if not sidetracked by commentaries about “what Subud needs,” or “what is wrong with the helpers, or the Wings, or whatever.”)
The Moderator secures Buy in.
- No “Helping” Unless Requested. The Moderator explains that sometimes people just need to talk about their issues to work through them. That may be all that is needed – to give space for participants to give voice to a feeling or problem and thereby face it. Therefore if someone is speaking, please don’t try to “help” them by providing suggestions or advice, even if you think you have undergone the experience yourself. No “helping” unless a participant clearly and explicitly asks another participant for input/help.
The Moderator secures Buy In.
- Stay in the Circle (Physically). Once the circle begins, everyone should stay the course, until the Moderator announces a break. In other words, please don’t take breaks while we are “in circle.” Since we will rapidly become an energetic unit, a person standing up and separating can impair our connectivity. (For smaller and intense circle work, consider explaining that sometimes a participant may have an urge to leave or go to the bathroom because he/she is intensely experiencing something that is uncomfortable and which he/she on some level may not want to directly face.]
The Moderator secures Buy In.
- Be Present (Emotionally). The Moderator asks each person to be present. Please pay attention to the person speaking. If you find yourself disengaging or bored, then you are not present. Try to be aware of why you are disengaging if that occurs and then please make a renewed effort to be present.
Also, be aware, your emotions and reactions may be amplified by the circle’s energy field and may appear well out of the norm. For example, if someone is speaking and is not being forthright, you may find yourself getting very irritable beyond what you would have expected your reaction to be.
Moderator Secures Permission to Moderate. Before starting the circle, the Moderator may want to ask everyone’s agreement and permission to interject, if necessary, if participants are not keeping to the agreed framework.
Moderator Recaps Before Beginning. When starting the circle, the Moderator may want to reinforce key principles:
Let’s give each speaker our full attention and remember that what is said here is confidential. If you speak, please secure the circle’s attention first and do your best to speak from your “I” on the topic we have agreed.
Closing the Circle
Throughout the process and in closing, the Moderator should take every opportunity possible to make sure that each participant really feels heard. At the conclusion of the circle meeting, the Moderator thanks everyone for their time and attention. Of course, (further) thanks also may be appropriate for the organizers, staff, and others who have contributed to the event.
 Prepared by Kenneth Clark (KBC) and Fatijah Clark, November 2023. © KBC 2023. This writing may be distributed without permission of the authors but only in full form, please.
 It is very difficult to moderate a circle to facilitate meaningful exchanges when the number of participants exceed 40 or so. In the event of a larger circle, where the circle is convened principally for introductions and limited information exchange, then some of the more detailed explanations below are not needed.
 A more formal “attention” getting procedure is for the Moderator to make eye contact with participants and say: “May I have your attention please.” The Moderator encourages each participant to answer back, affirmatively. After modeling this approach, the Moderator requests that each participant use this approach – before you start speaking, make individual eye contact and ask: “may I have your attention please.”