Shredding & Honoring

This blog entry is dedicated to our magnificent office manager and colleague, Debbie Dix, who has been the third peer spirit in our office for 16 years, fully occupying her leadership chair.IMG_4406

 Ann Linnea and I arrived on Whidbey Island in March 1994, with two book manuscripts in progress, her two children, my first corgi, a small amount of savings and child support, and the idea that this circle process we were experimenting with was a gift we wanted to refine and offer the world. A mission actually, a sense that we had come together to deliver this gift, to make space in the world for circle. Ann rented a house for herself and her children, I house-sat up the road. I wrote the first version of Calling the Circle and tried to find a publisher interested in buying it.

A few months later, Ann’s book, Deep Water Passage, sold and the money helped us stabilize a way forward. That fall she bought a house with a little shed in back and rehabbed it into office space: 10 x 20 feet, two rooms: a back room for book storage and a mailing station, papers, files, and the growing accumulation of equipment for this work—from markers and flipchart paper to camping gear for wilderness experiences, boxes of collage materials, and three computers for our technological interface with the world.

In March 2000, Debbie Dix showed up seeking flexible work while raising her (then) toddler son and supporting her (then) high school math teacher husband. We hired her in 20 minutes and have thanked our lucky stars over and over and over. We could truthfully say, “We are a small, local educational company with global outreach.” There is a more detailed version of this progression in the preface to the book.

Twenty-two years have gone whizzing by. And now, having spent the past three years transitioning our circle training and consulting into the capable hands of dozens of colleagues and onto the new website, we are taking the PeerSpirit office apart. (We will continue teaching writing and leading quests.)

Two four-drawer filing cabinets, six plastic storage bins of archived files, teaching scripts, remaining booklets inventory (as they are now transferred to e-booklets available on The Circle Way site and Amazon), and 20 hula-hoops used to demonstrate personal space at the rim of the circle. We are recycling all the office supplies we can. We are giving away the circle accessories we’ve accumulated on the journey. We are shredding the file contents that need to be safely discarded.

Sorting and shredding is actually quite an emotional process.

Shredding raises questions about what it means to carry a body of work that is basically invisible (the synergy of the space between people), and to let go of the documentation of that journey. There is no university archive waiting for “the circle papers.” We have little empirical evidence, just change of heart evidence.

Shredding requires that Ann, Debbie, and I handle every file, and in the midst of sentimental recollections, let it go. “Oh look, here is where we met Sarah, David, Holger, Linette…” or “Remember St. Pat’s church, 2003? The speech we gave at Brescia University?” Hundreds of consulting jobs, Circle Practica, phone notes from negotiations that seemed promising and stalled out, surprise connections: a life-time of work.

We three carry the experience and story of what it took to bring the circle into the world as we did. And as the boxes pile up, we witness that story, recite bits of it to one another, and let it go. Nobody wants all these details. Nobody but us could decode them into sense-making.

There is a moment when I wonder if we should be making a list of this history—but for whom? And why? Everyone engaged in teaching and practicing The Circle Way is accumulating their own experience and story. Circle is about interaction, not archiving.

The impact of circle will speak for itself in how lives shift. This is the great magic. We are sitting in the round. The circle pattern is called into place. A talking piece starts hand-to-hand. People speak heartfully. There is an energetic opening, often felt as a tiny “ping” in someone’s awareness. A bell rings. The group breathes, moves on. But that ping is morphing inside someone’s mind and heart. Checking out, s/he says, “I don’t know what it is about this circle stuff, but I’m going back to my office to interact differently to my staff. I going home to ask my family a meaningful question and see what happens at the dinner table.”

That’s the circle’s archive. That’s the proof.

A few weeks ago Ann took 10+ boxes to Island Recycle and put the contents through an industrial chomping machine.




12 replies
  1. Sara Harris
    Sara Harris says:

    oh my, thanks for putting this into words. It brought tears to my eyes , having recently retired from 35 years as a therapist. So ephemeral, so little concrete “trace”, so many books and CDs given to youngers, having to know in the heart space that good work was done and that I was happy doing it. “What matters is invisible to the eye..” at least sometimes!
    And how wonderful for the 3 of you to talk through the history and let the “hard” evidence go, knowing the wafts, the work, the ripples are bigger than you. Let the paper be chomped, the files draws close, and know the impact of your joint love and passion never ends…

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Those of us whose work is subtle changes of heart and mind really have to trust that ephemeral level. It’s a kind of spiritual practice. Thanks for knowing that with me.

  2. Julia
    Julia says:

    What about documenting it as a book about your start up – a book that guides others into creating an imaginative and soul-oriented business? A business of the heart in a world where so many businesses are of the purse. A book that helps other follow the breadcrumbs and avoid the unnecessary pitfalls…

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Great idea, my dear…. and I hope someone will come along who wants to do that… we are happy to talk about it to that writer, and not to take it on ourselves. Breadcrumbs on the trail is how we did it… and what we leave for others is something else, stones in the moonglow, perhaps?

  3. Katharine
    Katharine says:

    I enjoyed reading this “reader’s digest” of The Circle Way’s chrononlogy.
    I’ve had a similar experience these past weeks. Shredding, recycling and even a ceremonial burning to this recent Full Moon. Files, texts and books, decades worth of personal and professional notes and journals. All to make space for what is new…fledgling writer-poet and in lovely counterpoint, the stepping in more actively, more intentionally to circle practice.
    With deep appreciation to you, Ann and dear Debbie…the three peerspirits. (Something quite mythical about this, yes?)
    Love, Katharine

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Katharine I am sensing in your comment a turn of the wheel that will integrate the intimate quality of presence holding you provide in circle practice and the grounding of the poetic voice that sits with you. Appreciation back.

  4. Jeanne Guy
    Jeanne Guy says:

    How I love the Circle Way and the pathway you and Ann have provided to the rest of us. How I love you, Ann and Debbie and will forever be grateful. The Circle Way will find its way forward because, truly, there is no other way.

  5. Brenda Peddigrew
    Brenda Peddigrew says:

    Ann, Debbie, Christina! Your early story lights up with courage and heart – and so does the way you are now choosing to unfold into a different life. You inspire me greatly and always will.

  6. Evelyn Zellerer
    Evelyn Zellerer says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post and update. I too have drawers and boxes full of papers and history, thinking I should write it all up one day. Thank you for your inspiration and invitation to let go. Your legacy continues.

  7. Jeanne
    Jeanne says:

    Christina, thanks for putting words to this “moving on/letting go” experience that we all must go through at a certain time in our lives – finding ourselves at the age of looking back on a body of work that we have valued doing and given heart to for so many years. Thanks for bearing witness to this life process that you seem to be doing with grace and with eyes wide open. What fun is ahead, for doing other things that we love too!

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Jeanne, I so appreciate your touch-ins with us after a blog post or newsletter–they let us know how you are as well.


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