What is a ‘story circle’? Most of the dozen or so people who came along for the first of Aunty Bea’s Story Circles at North Farm probably had that question in mind when they arrived here on Sunday morning!

In short, we all discovered that a story circle is a respectful way of listening to each other speak from the heart, and of interweaving each other’s stories into a fabric of trusting communication. Or as one participant put it, ‘listening each other into being’.

After Aunty Bea’s Welcome to Country, Jen briefly set the scene by outlining the intent behind the series of events, namely to strengthen community resilience through exploring how different people work their way through the tough times … and thereby to discover how ‘the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts’.

Gai then drew on her experience of running Bereavement Journey workshops for Sids & Kids as she hosted a two-hour session in which people listened with silent compassion to some extraordinary stories of life’s highs and lows. Somehow Gai’s suggestion of not feeling we had to say anything after someone spoke deepened the sense of ‘holding’ of the pain of the story. As she said, sometimes it helps to ‘let the silence do the heavy lifting’ …

After sharing lunch outside in the winter sun, we reflected on what we’d experienced in the morning and noticed that even though we were a really diverse group, most of whom didn’t know each other, all of us had resonated with some aspect of each story – reminder that when we immerse ourselves in the personal details of a story we often discover some universal truths about human experience.

Aunty Bea then invited people to share their favourite quote about resilience, and there were some real gems. These things can sometimes sound trite when taken out of context (eg ‘Stay in the now’ and ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’) but as a group we’d taken a journey through the thicket of detail and all seemed to emerge with a richer sense of the meaning of those little phrases.

The Story Circle journey reminded Jen later of a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes: ‘I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I’d give my right arm for the simplicity on the other side of complexity’.


Story Circle - North Farm Loving Nature Retreat Space, Bellingen Book

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