Circles of compassion featured image

image courtesy of Ella Trotter

A highlight of my visits to Kalikalos, are the circles. We gather before each evening meal, this brings us back to the present, to reconnect, to welcome any newcomers, acknowledge any parting guests, make any announcements and give thanks to those who have cooked the evening meal.

Each Saturday there is a morning circle, where we hear about the history, values, ethos and rhythms of Kalikalos and are introduced to the volunteer staff. Here we are invited to say a little about who we are, where we come from and perhaps what has drawn us to this community high up in the Pelion overlooking the sea.

On Thursday evenings we sit around a fire, or circle of candles and speak about our experiences of spending a week in community. Volunteer staff circles take place each morning providing the opportunity to ‘check in’ and communicate about what needs doing, fixing, buying, cooking, washing etc…but, that comes after the sharing element of the circle. In this way staffers support each other as they move through the week.

The aim of circles at Kalikalos is to invite everyone to be present as equals, be heard and hear each other in a respectful, nurturing space. Those gathered are introduced to the concept of the circle and the ‘talking object’. This ‘object’ is held by the one who is speaking and invites those present, to listen as deeply as they can to what that person has to say. Those speaking are invited to use ‘I’ statements and direct anything said to the centre of the circle, rather than to individuals. ‘I’ statements help us to own what we are saying and hear it in the first person, it also ensures that we are only speaking about how things are for us, rather than making generalisations or assumptions about what life is like for others.

​In the centre of the circles there are always a few beautiful objects. Candles, a vase of fresh flowers, stones from the beach, a bell and a variety of talking objects, so that people can choose to hold that which resonates with them. This central focus sets the tone, bringing an intention of sacredness. At points in these circles there is an invitation to hold hands and become aware of the connection that runs through each of us. It can have the effect of enabling us to feel a sense of our place within the whole.

I have been deeply moved by the circles I have attended at Kalikalos. This has been in response to the privilege of witnessing so many individuals tell their story, or just a snippet of their story and how this reveals the unique realities of everyone present. There is something about this sharing, hearing and being heard, seeing and being seen, that is very nourishing to me. Experiencing the enriching, powerful, connectedness that can result from such a simple activity. I would love this opportunity to be available in more areas of my life.

To that end…on my return from Kalikalos I had a job interview for a role that involved supporting a mental health project. In preparation for the interview I did some research on the internet. Here, I came across an advert for a Compassionate Mental Health conference being held at a beautiful earthy centre called Fforest near Cardigan in Wales. Both the subject and the venue called out to me and felt like they were in direct relation to the sense of connectedness I experienced in Greece. Before I knew it, I had paid the fee and booked myself on. The draw for me was the mention of circles, compassion and connection.

I was not disappointed. The conference was wonderful. The whole experience had been well planned and was delivered by beautiful people who were happy to humbly share their journeys with us and invite us to share ours if we felt the call to do so. There were many activities that fostered a sense of safety and connection and kept bringing us back to our bodies, this moment, each other, ourselves and compassion. Circles were very much present throughout. I felt seen and liked for who I am and felt the same deep witnessing of others. This was a beautiful gift which I carried away with me and which I can add to the gift of my experiences at Kalikalos.

I am heartened to know that this conference is available and an example of what I hope and know to be a growing movement towards authentic connection and communication.

If I look for them I will find these compassionate circles and I invite you to step towards any that may present themselves in your world if, like me, you long for an authentic sense of connection to self and to your fellow human beings.

Circles of compassion image

image courtesy of Janine Shaw