Appreciation Circles

Last night I dreamed about a strange and wonderful ritual. The dream was set in my past and featured a group of about 15 close friends and family members at that time, who had gathered at someone’s house to celebrate something called “Co Day” (apparently referring to any or all of “community”, “colleagues” and “cohabitants”).

The highlight of “Co Day”, in the dream, was a ritual called an Appreciation Circle. We were sitting in a circle with candles around us and an array of cards, each depicting a positive attribute like compassion, patience, or green thumb, in front of us. Each of us took a turn being the honouree, starting with the youngest member there. Here’s how it went:

  1. The honouree closed her/his eyes, or turned around so they were not facing the circle.
  2. Everyone who chose to offer an appreciation to the honouree raised their hand. One of the people whose hand was raised would nominate someone else with their hand raised to speak next.
  3. Each nominated speaker in turn said one or two sentences with this format: “I wish [name of honouree] success in [something the speaker knew the honouree was seeking to do/be/accomplish]”. [and/or] “I honour her/his [some quality or capacity the speaker believed the honouree exemplifies]”. These statements would include just one wish and/or one appreciation. So, for example, one said: “I wish Catherine success in her search for a new partner; I honour her volunteering so much of her time to helping those less fortunate.”
  4. When all speakers wishing to offer an appreciation to this honouree (i.e. everyone with their hand raised) had spoken, hands were raised again for the opportunity to relate a brief story about the honouree — a fond memory. Silently by consensus, hands were dropped until only one remained. That person told a story starting with “I recall fondly when [name of honouree]…” Only one story was told about each honouree.
  5. As the story was told, the others in the circle (if they wished and thought appropriate) drew from the array of cards in front of them one card depicting a positive attribute they thought the honouree had, and held it silently in front of them where it could be seen by the others in the circle (but not, of course, by the honouree).
  6. After the story had been told, the honouree thanked the circle and responded with a statement with this format: “I seek for myself [something they were striving for in their life], and I offer to you all [some non-material gift they were willing to give others in the circle who valued it].” So for example, Catherine said “I seek for myself the capacity to love and to forgive the people who have unintentionally hurt me, and I offer to you all my famous chocolate soufflé recipe.”
  7. The honouree then opened her/his eyes, or turned around to face the circle again. Thanks were exchanged, and the turn of honouree passed to the next youngest person.

Anyone was free to decline to be honoured as their turn came up. At one point in my dream a family pet became the honouree (for steps 2-5 only)! At another point in the dream someone said they had two more Appreciation Circles to attend with different groups of friends, family and colleagues later that “Co Day”.

It was just a dream. But though I may have unwittingly embellished it in recalling it when I awoke, it seems to me that the idea of Appreciation Circles and a Co Day make a lot of sense. I’m not much of a fan of rituals, or of ‘official’ holidays, but I found this dream, and the ritual and holiday that unfolded in it, a strangely moving experience.

Maybe I’ll try it someday, when I’m next in a group of close Co’s.

image: visionary permaculture group using the Group Works  exemplary group practice pattern language cards — photo by Gene Stull; these are not the ‘positive attribute’ cards that appeared in my dream, but they would do in a pinch!

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2 Responses to Appreciation Circles

  1. nozulani says:

    We are a circle
    Within a circle
    With no beginning
    And never ending.

  2. liliana says:

    Yeah! It’s good to do this.
    I will take up your idea. Maybe I’ll try do it someday. (Once, I did something similar, with a little girls group, at a certain difficult situation. It was wonderfully therapeutic, with capital letters).

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