At the end of a sharing circle I had with 3 of my close friends, I reminded myself, while also expressing to them, that I had been doing this kind of sharing for ages. Well over a decade now.
So as I was running through the trails the next day, a space where I automatically do most of my mental processing, my mind started thinking about sharing and sharing circles.
To start with I’ll explain what kind of sharing I am speaking of. It is the kind where we set aside time and space for sitting down together, two or more, and intend to listen to each other, mainly without any interruption. Setting the intention to not judge each other, or try to preach to each other what we think is right or wrong, or give advice.
We also set the intention to share our truth, if we feel the need to share, and to keep the sharing directed at ourselves, without blaming or trying to make other people or situations responsible for our feelings.
It’s a space where we drop deep into ourselves and let out what needs to surface, share the stuff that we are reluctant to share. Share the stuff that we usually cover up in conversations by talking about things that aren’t really that important, or we’re just talking to be talking, to not sit in silence with another and ourselves.
It can also be a space for sharing with someone else what they are reflecting to us. We relate with our close ones, and obviously they trigger stuff in us. They may trigger anger, unworthiness, happiness, love, fear.
What is it that is bothering us about ourselves or being reflected through another?
Setting the space for expressing this makes it somehow easier to dive deeper and let it all come out, in a space of non judgement, firstly towards ourselves, and maybe from others, although that is not so important once we stop judging ourselves. It seems that once we stop judging ourselves, we also stop caring what others think.
This brings me to see that in our usual circumstances, we are not in this space. If we were, we would not need to “create” a space for it. If we are wanting to live a life of transparency and honesty with ourselves and others, why is it hard for us to do it all the time? Why is it hard to listen to our loved ones, or to anyone, without our ego getting in the way and wanting to interrupt? That’s a subject for another day though, cause it can go on long and is beyond the point of what I’m writing here.
It’s just interesting to notice that we feel the need to create a space for sharing. And there is nothing wrong about this, since it works and speaking from experience it has served me well for a long time, and still does.
And what is it that I get out of sharing my heart out?
Well one thing that popped up is that when we are repeating a story in our head, we are keeping it to our selves, making us feel “special”. Our ego thrives on that specialness.
Once we share that story, it is out, and we have let go of identifying with that secretive part of ourselves. Let go of trying to solve it in our head, on our own, making our own unwarranted assumptions about it, about us and about others.
Secondly it relieves that feeling of aloneness, that we are the only ones feeling this way, or that it is wrong to feel this way. It gives us another opportunity to allow ourselves to be human, and not judge ourselves as being good or bad in that experience.
I started sharing in 12-step meetings while I was still using drugs and continued after I stopped. I shared many times what I was going through, and I found out that even though I thought so, I usually wasn’t the only one who had gone through that experience or felt that way.
Through listening to others I also realised many times that they are having some of the same issues that I am. I also realised a lot of things about myself, about why I act or feel this or that way. I started realising what I want to nurture in my life, and what I want to let go of.
This brings me to the other part of sharing – Listening. Basically, sharing circles are not just about me. They are about everyone in them. And most of the time is actually spent listening, especially when more than two people are involved.
Listening becomes a meditation in itself. Becoming aware of when we are listening, and when we are not. When we are truly listening, instead of thinking about what is being said, putting it through our lenses of judgement, thinking what we should say in our turn, whether we should give advice and so on.
Listening, as I’ve already mentioned, also teaches us about ourselves, uncovers parts of ourselves, that are being reflected through others.
It also makes us feel OK about our experiences at times, cause we are not the only ones having them. Or at least we feel understood.
And why do we need to do all this, instead of solve it all in our own head?
Well personally I like relating to others, and I like honest relationships with others. I feel that as a human being I am a social animal and I like sharing space with other human beings. And it is nice to feel understood, connected to others, instead of isolated or in the story of “I am all alone in this”.
Then there is the other part of sharing that I have experienced – “over-sharing”.
What I mean by this is sharing to re-assert my ego instead of letting go of it. Sharing to keep my story alive.
Once we share something, we can realise that it’s just a story and that we can let it go, live it for what it is, and that’s it.
But sometimes we, or at least I, have found myself sharing just for the sake of talking and letting others know that I’m here. Repeating the same old recycled stories, wanting others to believe and validate them, which in turn validates me. Looking for acceptance from others, thinking it will in turn bring about an acceptance of myself.
All fine too, if that is what you want out of a circle.
I also have found myself trying to convince others that I am right. And when others agree with what I am saying, that makes me more right. My ideas are the best, even though yesterday or last year I had different ideas, and they were also the best.
For me today sharing is just a tool to help me in being transparent and live my life as I want to live it, without judging myself for it. Without allowing the judgements of others affect it. It is a tool to continue looking at the stories I create, then recognize them as stories and let go of them. Or hold onto them for a while and accept that those are the stories and identities I want to hold onto for now, which is fine too.
It is also a tool for nurturing the relationships that are dear to me. Sharing circles can clear conflicts and confusions. Sometimes the intention of sitting together can be just that, understanding a conflict. We share what has been coming up for us when the other acts in some way, or what we have been assuming. And then we are ready to listen to the other without judgement. It is important also to not go in with the idea that we will “solve” the conflict. Only maybe understand it. Sometimes our idea of solving is to get told that we are right and the other is wrong. Here the goal is to just sit together and hear each other out, while doing our best to let our ego get out of the way.
I know that the truth I am sharing today, might not be true tomorrow, but for today it is how I am feeling and what is coming up for me. And through sharing with others I have many times instantly felt more clarity about situations in my life. Lighter. It gives me the opportunity to see it from another perspective.
Here’s a line from one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs, just made sense for me to share it here.
Steer your heart past the truth
You believed in yesterday
Such as fundamental goodness
And the wisdom of the way