CircleAnywhere LevelUP Local Immersion @ Monastic Academy February 2022 Reflections

Recently, I participated in a four day immersion of the CircleAnywhere LevelUP Local taught by Mike Blas & Jordan Myska Allen. The Monastic Academy hosted the event.
 
I loved it. I felt the ground shifting under me each day. I saw small insights about my personality and behavior. The tensions in leadership of caring for others versus owning my desire. My love of circling and its potentials as a journey towards truth and being. I can’t put a pin quite on it, but it felt rich.
 
The most important aspect was that I felt excitement about my future rather than confusion and self-doubt. I came to terms with my future changes and voiced to Blas and Jordan wanting support in it. That felt good.
 
This weekend was also rare in that everyone participating were already experienced and advanced circlers. On the very first day, we dropped in deep and didn’t have the usual anxiety/having to teach circling/working through projections and defenses of those projections about patriarchy and colonialism and parents and shit. I mean that stuff still happens. But, each of us had enough trust and experience with the practice that we could use that all as fodder to move forward rather than get bogged down. The depths and momentum that we could go through with our group was much deeper and faster than any other circling group I’ve been a part of.
 
As I am writing, I remember several moments.
 
I remember connecting with Jordan and felt more like old time friends. We freestyled sang a song. And I felt a kinship around each of us wanting to support each other. We share this aspiration to ethically bring truth and love to the world at a mass level. It’s rare I meet others who are so committed to the path of truth and also willing and able to get messy with the practical aspects. ie. leadership, projects, and community and shit.
 
I remember we did an informal circle after-hours and the rest of the MAPLE community were invited to join, a few did. I felt a mix of pride and defensiveness initially. I wanted to show that MAPLE knows how to circle. And I also felt protective of the existing momentum the LevelUP group had already accrued and didn’t want to slow down. So, I held a much higher razor’s edge standard of presence and truth. It got edgy. And one point, one of the MAPLE folks asked me, “how come we don’t always circle like this?” I took it as an attack on me rather than an exciting call to action. Because deep down, I’m not sure it’s always possible. Isn’t this the human constant struggle? How much can life energy express without getting stepped on and hurt? How much can we let our inner light shine with others before it’s not okay? That’s the edge. Likewise, I felt a tinge of rejection that night in circling and spent the night crying and grieving deeply over my shadows and wounds. Of my childhood neglect. Of feelings of unlovability. Of inadequacy. It was painful but revelatory. It feels like I cleaned out some shadow memory of not being enough, of not feeling cared for enough in my childhood.
 
 
I also remember one of the exercises we did was new. It was around how we’re always setting context. Or our actions matter. Or karma is real.
 
It had three steps.
 
1) Noticing what is happening. (ex. I am anxious)
2) Noticing how I’m holding it (ex. I don’t like it, this isn’t okay.)
3) From that place, coaching myself to the next step. But expressing the coaching as if I was coaching the group. (ex. Sometimes, things are hard, that’s okay. Let yourself feel it.)
 
After several shares, I noticed I was anxious and scared and my shares were coming out aggressive and sharp. I also noticed my holdings were reactive and negative.
 
Another prompt for the second step was, “how would God hold me or relate to me right now?”.
 
So, I shifted taking a moment to move between Noticing to Holding. I could differentiate “How I was Automatically Holding” to the next step towards “How Would God (or any benevolent loving, wise figure)” hold me. And then take that on instead.
 
So for example, before I was saying, “I’m noticing I’m anxious and tense. I’m holding that with I fucking hate this. Stop being a wimp and surrender already.”
 
Now, I could go to “I’m noticing I’m anxious and tense. I don’t like it. (How would God treat me in this?) It’s okay to be tense sometimes. Allow yourself to move at the speed you need.”
 
It’s funny because it’s such a basic mindfulness 101 exercise. But it was so helpful to do it with another partner and felt a trippy, loving state.
 
Another moment, I was in a feedback circle. The person receiving feedback was transforming. A metamorphosis from a caterpillar to butterfly. I could see it in front of me. And I could witness that liminal space where all the mental models and defenses have to drop and enter the complete unknown. Shed all the old bones and skin. Become that transformative goo. And it finally dawned on me witnessing this person be so scared and fearful and nervous moving through this. Of course! I’ve been in that stage so many times and I always had this subtle judgment that I shouldn’t feel scared. One day I won’t face change and growth with so much life threatening fear. But seeing this person going through this, I instead felt compassion such that it reoriented my own beliefs. It felt like I gave myself permission to have a messy transformation because I felt compassion for my friend going through it. Of course it’d be scary. It’s healthy and normal to feel scared. The only question is completing it.
 
There were so many moments.
 
It was so amazing that six years ago I meet Blas and Jordan. And now I got to invite them to MAPLE. The different worlds of my life are cross pollinating and each world is getting stronger for it.
 
I first did circling back in 2015 in NYC, a weekend immersion with John, Sean, and Jordan. It was life changing for me. I started leading informal circles with friends back home. It helped me get over my self-doubts and apply to join MAPLE. Later, I started teaching it at MAPLE; it has become the most popular aspect of MAPLE, second only to the meditation interviews. I’ve spent more money invested in circling training than anything else. It’s changed my relationships, my leadership, my life in general.
 
In about two weeks, I’ll be co-leading a circling week-long retreat at MAPLE. My 9th? or something at this point.
 
Hope to see you at a Circle in the future.
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