[Navigation imagemap]
Home | Search | Map | Books | Knowledge Garden | Calendar | Ordering | Guestbook

A Metaphor for a Worldwide Paradigm Shift
Creating Learning Organizations Through Core Competence in Community Building
Softstuff: Work Teams in Technical Organizations
From Chaos to Community at Work
Discovering a Generative Path to Organizational Change
Dialogue and Organizational Transformation
The Wisdom Council
Rediscovering the Circle: Community in Balance
A Sense of the Whole: The Essence of Community
The Quest for Collective Intelligence
Principles for Sustainability
My Journey Toward Hope

Re-discovering the Circle: Being Together in Balance

by Darla Chadima & Geoffrey Hulin

This document is a revised version of the chapter
"Re-discovering the Circle: Being Together in Balance"
in the anthology "Community Building: Renewing Spirit and Learning in Business", New Leaders Press, 1995.
Please do not quote without the permission.

Over the last two years, we have asked managers,
"What is missing in your life?"
The most common answer is

As business moves from the paradigm of organizations with their functional towers toward the paradigm of organisms with their emphasis on interelatedness, managers seek new strategies for balancing the needs of individuals with those of the business, thus making both business and individuals healthier and stronger.

Amid the quest for new answers, people tend to forget the answers that have been around for millenia. Many of our current problems related to shifting paradigms have ancient solutions, or at least can be seen and understood in the echoes of ancient wisdom and practice. The way of the circle, which reaches back thousands of years in time, is the precursor of our modern ways of being together in business community.

Relax now as we take you, the corporate explorer, simultaneously into the future and back through time to a place of creativity and imagination, where you experience balance and wholeness and see the possibilities for satisfying interaction with your fellow business community members. In this journey, we'll make use of both the healing wisdom of the ancients and a simple version of a modern business tool: the interactive computer.

As you read this chapter, pause when you want time to reflect on one aspect of the whole, or to savor the experience of tuning into the larger rhythms of the energy of the planet we all share.


Arriving at the Circle

Imagine, if you will, that you have been on a journey that has lasted many years. The purpose of your journey has been to find the keys to realizing a vision. The vision is of a time when corporations, as a powerful force for positive change on the planet, focus on their contribution and connection to the whole of life.

After many adventures, you have come to a beautiful high meadow. In the middle of the meadow is a spacious circle of trees and in the center of the circle is a round table with a computer on it.

As you step into the circle, the screen brightens and the faces of an old man and woman appear. There is an integrity and power about them. They look right at you. The woman speaks:

"Welcome, seeker of wisdom. We have been waiting for you. Come to the table. Make yourself comfortable."

You sit down in front of the screen, grateful for the chance to stop and rest. A gentle wind arises and the faces dissolve into a graphic image glowing on the screen in the early morning light.

The image is of a circle that includes four directions, East, South, West and North, with beautiful shadings of color in each - yellow gold in the East, deep red in the South, jet black in the West and a shining white in the North.

In the center of the circle, the colors blend into a green diamond shape. Each of the directions is labeled, as is the center:

The circle of community building

The man's voice continues:

"Use the pointing device next to the screen toi move around the circle. You can begin anywhere you wish, but I suggest you begin in the East and work your way clockwise around the circle. End your journey by moving to the center.

"Each of the words in the circle represents an essential element of community building. The elements exist in dynamic balance and interaction with each other. Each element - Vision, Change, Nurturing and Action - must be dealt with fully and be held in relation to the other three. Agreement is the vortex that allows the four elements to dance together."

You take a deep breath, reflect for a moment and then ask:

"Before I start, would you mind telling me where this information comes from?"

The teachers' faces return to the computer screen. The old man speaks:

"Not at all. Underlying this system is a body of teachings still taught the world over by many different 'carriers' of ancient, earth-based wisdom. These 'old' people knew about circles. By observing the earth and its patterns and rhythms, they saw the ways of balance and beauty and modeled their communities in harmony with the natural patterns they saw all around them. In their oral tradition of teaching and learning, information was held in circular form or 'wheels' which could be overlaid one on the other much like today's computer- based hypermedia. Looking into one particular area takes you deeper into the wisdom. Each circle adds to your understanding of the whole."

The woman continues:

"They also created processes which ensured that the wisdom and needs of the whole as well as of each individual would be heard.

These same processes ensured that all perspectives would be considered and that the community would move forward in a balanced and harmonious way, having looked deeply into the issues that faced it. They knew of the magic that can occur when we are truly a community. They knew the power of flying as a single flock of birds, of having a single collective intelligence, while encouraging - even demanding - that the self-authority and intelligence of each individual be brought forward. They danced a dance which moved between the wholeness of the individual and the oneness of the whole."

You experience a sense of anticipation.

"Thank you," you say.

"It feels good to have finally found the source of this information. It's been a long journey."

"Yes," says the old man.

&quo;tTake a moment. Walk around the circle of trees in this meadow. Notice that there is a tree and a place of beauty in each of the four directions. Allow yourself to experience the magic of this place. This circle, and many others like it throughout the world, were built to be strong containers, capable of holding the challenging work that you are doing. Take your time."

Beginning in the East, you walk slowly around the meadow. As you walk, you notice a shift in your breathing, an openness to receive new information, a feeling of connectedness with whomever built this place. Refreshed, you walk back to the computer and sit down.

The woman's voice begins again.

"Before we move on, we need to speak of community...What is community? What is it we seek to create?"

The following sentence, (attributed to Juanita Brown, President of Whole Systems Associates) appears on the screen.

"The essence of community is the sense of building a common destiny."

The old woman continues:

"No matter who we are, where we find ourselves, or how much we 'know' about community - creating and experiencing community first involves making a choice. Unless this choice is clearly made and affirmed again and again in our daily life, no amount of knowledge, no amount of wisdom, no amount of technology can create and sustain community. It comes down, in each moment, to looking at the person (or team, or country) next to us, and choosing to see our oneness or our separateness. If we choose to recognize our oneness, it is possible to join in the creation of a common destiny. If we choose to continue maintaining the illusion of isolation and separateness, community cannot come into being. "In our recent past, we have lived as if we are not connected. As if we do not share a common destiny. As if the water I pollute does not eventually flow into the well or water system from which you drink.

As if the workers whom I lay off in the 'right sizing' of my business do not become 'social overhead' to be paid for by all of us in the form of unemployment compensation, food stamps, Medicare, crime, homelessness, etcetera."

The man continues:

"We are an interwoven circle, a planetary web. As Chief Seattle said in the 1850's:
This we know: All things are connected like the blood that unites us. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.and as 20th century physicist David Bohm has said:

The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion.

(Both quotations appear on the screen)

As the scientists and wise people in the world come into basic agreement about the fundamental order of the universe, i.e. that we are an interconnected, conscious whole, we seek to marry the ancient wisdom our ancestors knew about the essence of community (or they wouldn't have survived) with emerging technologies (such as on-line nets, electronic media, collaboratives, and learning expeditions) which allow communities to be created and sustained in ways that did not exist in the past."

The sun is now high overhead. You take a drink of cool water from your canteen and reach for the pointing device.



You click on the East, the place of vision. An image of fire appears on the screen.

The man speaks:

"The East is the place of vision, of creativity, of spirit, imagination and freedom. It is the place of the image of the shared destiny we wish to create. Vision gives the thrust, the life, the fire to the community, other than just 'getting the job done.' It differentiates one organism from another."

You ponder his words as an eagle circles slowly, high in the sky. Returning your gaze to the computer, you see some questions on the screen.

The man speaks:

"Holding questions open is a key to learning and growing. We recommend that you enter into dialogue with your team and others concerning these questions, working with them until you reach clear agreement about your path forward.

  1. What is the common vision that unites the community you seek to build? The one which EVERYONE knows and agrees upon and could clearly state without hesitation if asked upon being awakened from a deep sleep?

  2. What is the process for determining the vision? In acommunity, everyone's gift is needed. How are you going to encourage the whole circle of people to step forward with their part of the vision - their
  3. How do we weave the individual visions of the people into the common vision? What do we do with a vision that is very powerful to the individual and that does not have a place in the company? If someone doesn't share any part of the vision - what are they doing there?

  4. What kind of time will be allowed for a vision to emerge and become seeded in your corporation? You will need to create a time of dialogue - meetings that encourage people to talk to and listen to one another, to reveal their deepest truths. When people truly share their visions, an intimacy is created, an intimacy that must be respected and allowed to grow.

As the printer prints out the questions, the woman takes up the thread:

"Before we begin creating a vision, we must decide if we will go forward with integrity. It is not ethical to encourage people to 'tell their truth' and then to not have the courage to let them bring their visions into form. An organism, a living community is always capable of surprising us. To move forward in integrity, we must, as Angeles Arrien has said, be willing to do four things: 'show up, pay attention, speak our truth and not be attached to any specific outcome,' while simultaneously maintaining community and getting the job done."

This is no small task, you think to yourself!

After a brief walk, you take a deep breath, sit back down and click on the red color. In the south of the circle is Change. An image of flowing water breaking over rocks appears.



You think of the increasing amount of change facing your team - and corporations as a whole - in this time. You remember your friend Tom insisting that "people really LOVE to change but resist being diddled with.'"

The woman speaks:

"The South is the place of change, of trust and innocence, of power and danger and emotional flexibility. Change shapes the shared destiny we are building. Change, if viewed positively, gives the community its sense of adventure, curiosity, awe and wonder. It is in direct contrast with 'business as usual'. Change is one of the key elements of community building. It is important to approach it in ways that make it easy for people to change. To realize powerful visions requires that we change so that we can create the future we desire to share."

The sunlight shines through the leaves of the ancient oak on your left. Questions about Change appear on the screen with a reminder to hold the questions open, look into them, and not jump to quick answers.

  1. What are the current attitudes towards change in your organization? Is it widely seen as a positive aspect of growth and evolution? Is it seen as a negative disrupter, to be avoided whenever possible?

  2. How do we get all members of the community to be participants in the adventure of change? How do we help create change so that we are all paddling forward together?

  3. What means are going to be provided for people to communicate honestly about the effects of change? We need to be able to openly acknowledge our thoughts and feelings as we're going through change. We need to be able to say, "I'm scared" or "I'm angry" or "I don't want to move."

  4. How do we create a climate for change? How can an attitude of openness, honesty and willingness be fostered?

The printer stops, and the man says:

"Look, you've been at this a while. Why don't you relax for awhile, and play a game?"

"By myself?" you ask.

"No, if you look outside the circle of trees, you'll see a circle of children playing and learning a story. Go join them, and come back in an hour or so."

Gratefully, you get up and join the children. For the next hour you rediscover the sense of play and wonder as the circle of children act out a story with their teachers. You come back refreshed.



Upon sitting down again, you click on the West area of the circle, the area of Nurturing. An image of the Earth, as seen from space, appears.

The woman begins:

"The West is the place of nurturing, of maintenance and balance, of teaching and healing. It is through nurturing that the shared destiny of the community can come into being and continue.

The nurturing we seek is a balance between the good of the individual and the good of the corporation - a balance between a short term and a long term focus. It is a nurturing that considers the impact of an action upon the children for the next 100 years.

The questions for Nurturing appear:

  1. What kind of nurturing is needed, for the individual and for the well being of the community?

  2. How willing are we to take the time to nurture and to teach what is needed?

  3. How do we maintain and nurture the people so that we take as good care of them as we do our machinery?

  4. Who is responsible for nurturing?

Again, the printer prints out these questions. You imagine the lively discussions you will have with your team. You smile, stand up, and walk out into the circle, noticing again how the beauty of this place affects you - how it encourages you to slow down and feel a deep sense of connection to all that is around you.



You walk back to the computer and click on the North segment of the circle. An image of the wind blowing strongly through a large stand of poplar trees comes onto the screen.

The man speaks:

"The North is the place of action, of clarity, strategy, resources and wisdom. It is the place of effective action in the service of shared destiny. There is a bias for action in our corporations, in our Western world. Action often comes before clear thinking. It is often out of balance with the other three elements of Vision, Change, and Nurturing.

All the pieces that make up the whole need to be connected before any action is taken."

The sun has shifted to the other side of the oak tree. A hummingbird dives from treetop height and halts a few centimeters from one of the flowers surrounding the circle. A flicker on the computer screen brings your attention back and you see the questions related to Action:

  1. What is the most we can contribute to the good of the organization? What actions would that entail taking?

  2. What is the action informed by? Before we act, what form of inventory are we going to take and from whom?

  3. What is our definition of effective? (Cheap, fast, makes lots of profit, short-term, long-term, effective for whom?)

  4. Is our action consistent with our vision? Does this actionbring our vision one step more into form?

"Clear Action comes from the courage of the heart and spirals around the circle again and again. Action informs our Vision, brings more Change and feeds on balanced Nurturing."

You sit back in your chair and print out the questions. As you pick up the printed sheet, the word "AGREEMENT" begins to pulse, as if inviting you to click at the center of the circle again. As you do so, the teachers appear again on the screen.



"We come now to the center of the circle. Agreement is the foundation of all relationship and conscious relationship is the foundation of all community."

The woman is speaking:

"Behind all relationships are agreements. In our communities and corporations today, many of these agreements are not conscious ones.

Conscious greement becomes possible once there is a shared vision. Without a shared vision, agreement often feels forced and superficial. Without some form of a 'circle,' where people can speak and be heard from their own perspectives, deep agreement will never be reached. Think about your organization or community. What are your explicit agreements? Do you agree on the vision for your company?

Do you have clear agreements about how change is handled in your community? Do you have any agreements about nurturing beyond giving or receiving a paycheck?"

The man picks up the thread:

"Agreement demands a clarity of understanding of ourselves, of our own wants, needs, skills and limitations and of those of the others we work with. Agreements require constant re-visiting because things will change. Disagreement plays an important function in reaching agreement. It is in the hearing of disagreement that we learn what it is that we need to grow into our next step. Our evolution depends upon messages of disagreement coming forward. Once disagreement is brought into the open, dialogue can begin as to how to move beyond it and into the next agreement. As long as we hold the same vision, we can use the power of disagreement to learn and to enrich the fabric of our community."

The questions on Agreement:

  1. What are the fundamental agreements on which ourcommunity is based?

  2. How is dissonance honored in our community? How can we find devices to help us hear about disagreement - not to blame or punish- but to honor and communicate.

  3. In what ways do we see differences as a source of power for this community?

  4. How do we share the power?

After the printer stops, you click on the screen and the original image comes back with additional attributes in each of the four directions:

The circle of community building

You take a moment to reflect on the whole circle.

"I'm amazed how each of the directions connects with the others and how much I want to separate and isolate one area for attention and action.&quo;t

"Yes, I know," says the woman.

"It takes practice to hold the whole and to look into all the questions before jumping into action. The more you practice, the better at it you'll get."

"Remember" says the man,

"this will take time and patience as well as powerful intention on your part. You are talking about a fundamental paradigm shift within the world of organizations."

The woman smiles before she speaks:

"We have one last gift for you to take back to your team today. Throughout history, there have been many support systems that helped communities stay viable. We want to briefly touch on one old form today - to give you a sense of how things might change in corporations in the coming years. Over the lifetime of many generations, people developed and refined a process called The Council. This process required that all individuals contribute their point of view, always keeping in mind the good of future generations. Different points of view were not just tolerated, but were seen as essential to reaching wise decisions. It demanded rigorous listening and respect for all points of view. In the Council process an issue was worked until a deep place of agreement was reached, a balanced, dynamic consenus. This is not the time to explain in detail that process - it requires study and experience to learn. Your questions will lead you towards this process, if that is your destiny."

You notice that the light is low and that the shadows dance in the circle of the trees. The children are nowhere to be seen.

The screen dims. You get up and pack up your things, ready to begin your journey back to the world you've known and resolute in your dedication to be an increasingly effective and balanced enzyme for change.



We are deeply grateful to our teachers, WindEagle and RainbowHawk for their help in clarifying our thinking about The Circle of Community Building. Their dedication to the teachings of the Mother Earth and Medicine Ways for living in balance in today's world continue to inspire and nourish us.

We also give thanks to our dear friend George Pór for his help in getting us started with this project, his feedback and wise council as it evolved and for his scouting party into collective intelligence on behalf of all of "the tribe."

We also thank Bill Veltrop for his coaching, appreciation and wise council.

by Darle Mae Chadima and Geoffrey Paul Hulin

The Business Transformation Book Café is a project of Vision Nest Publishing
Last updated by webmaster, April 23, 1997 .