What is the Circle Way?

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Interview with Manitonquat, elder of the Wampanoag Nation.

What is the Circle Way?

The Circle Way is a process developed through 30 years of workshops and camps, while we address the main source of all the problems of our society and civilization. That one source is our separateness. Our isolation from each other, what the controlling institution of society creates and maintain. Being naturally caring of each other, naturally compassion and creative, all people are able to conceive a more far better world. A more beautiful world – that as Charles Eisenstein says – our hearts knows is possible.

How did it start?

Storytelling and Supportive Listening

We are all brothers in the same story. An old story of separation in which we are alone and must struggle for our survival in a world that is indifferent or hostile to our need. It’s a world in which your success and value is measured only in terms of the material wealth you have.

The origins of the Circle Way are in an older story, the story in which our hominid ancestors became human in the first place by mending together for their survival and cooperating to care for the needs of all, regardless of age, sex or position.

I’ve learned from those ways from many elders among North American First Nations who learned from their elders who had actually lived in those traditional circles. They told me that those circles where not the ways of our people but of all people, the human being ways of our original instructions. And that I should speak of them to all who ask as I have asked to let all human beings know how to be a true human being.

When we look at the world today we get to see it becoming less and less human. All the wars that continue to murder people for natural, economic and national interests are anti-human. Rape, sexual slavery, physical cruelty and brutality rise in many parts of the world. Homelessness, hunger and starvation and abject poverty are the conditions of the vast majority of people, with the gap between the rich and the poor increasing incommutably.

People are not valued as human relatives, our brothers and sisters, they are only economic units. Costumers, clients, producers of income, party members, tax payers, wayfarers and recipients, students, patients. In which institution do you feel loved and cared about while you are filling out your forms and entering your social security numbers?

Alone, life in such a society feels hopeless. But, when we come together for a common cause we begin to feel glimmers of hope, at least for that cause. We all have at every age, from infancy on a need to be recognized, to be heard and understood and accepted. These are things that can bring us together. Bring us to a new story, a story of reunion and connection to each other as well as to all live and our precious home – the earth.

Many people are connecting and entering that story now. One group that I’d admire is known as Re-evaluation Counseling, commonly called Co-counseling. When I learned about, about 40 years ago, I’ve felt to learn more. As they have as a basic tendency the goodness and intelligence and carry of all human beings, just as my elders had taught me. What creates all our problems they say, is being hurt without being helped to heal by caring people who listen and understand, help as to value and be confident in ourselves.

In Co-counseling people had developed methods to help others by listening to them, by reflecting back their true image of their goodness, intelligence and their ability to create their lives and relationships and maintain them in a good way. The leaders I’ve met over the years of Re-evaluation Counseling where friendly and relaxed, and using Co-counseling to help people and create a more human society.

Manitonquat (Medicine Story)

So, of course I also became a teacher and took a position of spreading this help in the area where I lived among Native Americans generally. I was also encouraged by Harvey Jackins, the international reference person and a great and perceptive teacher, to go outside their community and begin to build a separate world movement on my own based on what I’ve learned. But he asked me to stay closed to him and to Re-evaluation Counseling, which I did.

When I am not traveling and spreading the Circle Way, I attend regular weekly classes in our Re-evaluation Counseling area, as specially our men group where I connect most deeply. So the tool that we have been developing in the past 30 years is almost exactly Co-counseling, but to avoid any confusion with Re-evaluation Counseling I have called it Supportive Listening, which is also more suggestive of its nature.

The Circle Way then grows from the teachings of my FirstNation elders and from the work of Co-counseling. But it proceeds on its own and continues to grow and change, as in our circles we grow and change and learn from each other.

What do you say to people who said they are just too busy to take in something new?

To people who say, “I’m so busy running all the time feeling stressed, overloaded, how can I take on more like this Circle Way?!”, I only want to point out to them: Hey, you are running in a burning house. If you don’t notice and grab a fire extinguisher you will lose it all. Not just for you, but for your children, your grandchildren and the unborn generations. My elders said, to act today for seven generations to come. Wow, that’s about 200 years. If we go on fighting each other while we are destroying the planet and thousands of species every year and tearing apart the biosphere, in a hundred years there won’t be much left. We won’t see it, but is that the legacy we want to leave them from our time here on earth?

If you think what I am saying is too strong, you weren’t paying attention. Send of a small donation to all environmental groups and get their newsletters. Listen to the concerned scientists. 97 percent are in agreement to all I just have said here.

To people who want to learn more, follow us on the internet on circleway.org. Read my books, find our camps and workshops. Learn to create your own circles and support through Supportive Listening. Become more relaxed, collected and closer to others who support you, and have more fun while you are doing.


Italy, Valchiusella 2016

The Circle Way Film Team

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