Three Pillars of the Compassion Circle Practice
- Holding Space
- Mindful Self-Compassion
- Being in Community
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”– Albert Einstein
Compassion: “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it” Professor Paul Gilbert, Compassionate Mind Foundation
Compassionate Facilitation: When we hold space as compassionate facilitators, we consciously invite participants into an awareness of responding with compassion and wisdom to self and to others – both to those who are in the circle and those who are not.
Enhancing trust comes from creating safe spaces for expression, connection, and reflection, which many of us simply have little or no time for in the course of our typical work day. Providing safe group spaces that are compassionately facilitated invites participants into a highly supportive and compassionate mindset with their colleagues that enhances safety, trust, confidence, and wellbeing.
Psychological Safety: a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes; Amy Edmundson from a Google study on high performing teams
Core Process of Compassionate Facilitation
- Preparation of self and the space
- Warm welcome
- Meet as equals
- Celebrate differences
- Space for contemplation
- Commitment to act
The Structure of the Compassion Circle
Invitations – ‘I would love you to come because…’
Preparation – Self: Quiet mind, Open heart
Preparation – Circle of chairs and basic refreshments if possible.
Framing: The facilitator’s role is to be disciplined in holding the space so that it enables equal thinking time and creates a safe space. It can be challenging to stop, to take care of ourselves and each other. As well as the facilitator, we can hold the space for each other. The intention of the circle is safety and growth. There are three core practices: listening with a quiet mind, asking questions that matter, and appreciating from the heart. The invitation in the circle is to speak from the heart and to listen with the heart. It is always fine to pass when it is your turn; the facilitator will give you another chance to contribute at the end of the round.
Check in round: The facilitator gives people a chance to collect their thoughts, in silence on their own. This means that you can listen to the speaker rather than think about what you are going to say! When it is your turn to speak, please speak succinctly. The facilitator may give an indication of timing, to ensure each person has equal time to speak and listen. Start by saying your name, how are you arriving and one thing that is going well for you outside work.
Uniting values: imagine a moment in the future when you need care. Picture someone walking towards you and think I am going to be ok with this one. What quality do you feel / see / hear? Share these words. These are universal, uniting values – things that we all want to see and feel in others.
Self-Care first thoughts round – what is your first thought on the way you care for yourself?
Pairs thinking – how do you care for yourself? (listening then appreciations)
Self-care commitment round – to better care for myself I will…
Inhibitors of Compassion first thoughts round – what is your first thought on what is most in the way of the flow of compassion?
Pairs thinking – what is most in the way of the flow of compassion? (new partner – listening then appreciations)
Thinking Now round – what are you thinking now is most in the way of the flow of compassion? (Scribe to record, if agreed)
Enabling the Flow of compassion first thoughts round – what are your first thoughts on what can be done to enable the flow of compassion?
Pairs thinking – what can be done to enable the flow of compassion? (new partner – listening then appreciations)
Thinking Now round – what are you thinking now can be done to enable the flow of compassion? (Scribe to record)
Appreciation of the Process – what have you most appreciated about the circle and the contribution of your most recent thinking partner?
Originally written by Andy Bradley and Benna Waites. Edited by Alister Scott on 2021-02-26