Frequently Asked Questions About Circle of Trust® Retreats
Parker J. Palmer
What is a Circle of Trust retreat?
Circle of Trust retreats are based on the simple but powerful idea that when we reconnect who we are with what we do, we are more authentically ourselves and can approach our lives and work with renewed passion, commitment, and integrity.
Within respectful guidelines to preserve confidentiality and protect each person's individual process, these retreats use poetry, personal stories, the arts, metaphors and processes in nature, time for solitude and reflection, deep listening and a non-judgmental inquiry process. They create space for listening to our inner wisdom, and help participants open to new realizations and understandings in their own way.
Who is Parker Palmer?
Parker J. Palmer, the developer of the Circle of Trust approach and the founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal, is the author of nine books and has received numerous honors and awards for his work as a writer, speaker and activist on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. His books include Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, and Healing the Heart of Democracy. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, and is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). You can find out more about him at the Center for Courage & Renewal website.
Who is this for?
Although this approach was initially created to help educators renew and sustain their work, programs offering Courage work are also available to leaders and others in health care, ministry, business, non-profit organizations, community leadership, and others looking to become more aware and authentic in their lives and work. Circle of Trust retreats are offered by facilitators prepared by and associated with the Center for Courage & Renewal. At LifePath, we offer these retreats and programs primarily to health care professionals, clergy, non-profit leaders and others involved in caring work.
What are the principles of this work?
"If we are willing to embrace the challenge of becoming whole, we cannot embrace it alone—at least, not for long: we need trustworthy relationships to sustain us, tenacious communities of support, to sustain the journey toward an undivided life. Taking an inner journey toward rejoining soul and role requires a rare but real form of community that I call a “circle of trust.”
—Parker J. Palmer, from A Hidden Wholeness (adapted)
With permission, we are glad to provide the principles and practices of this work in Parker Palmer's words from the Center for Courage & Renewal website.
What are the practices used in these retreats?
In this culture, we know how to create spaces that invite the intellect to show up, to argue its case, to make its point. We know how to create spaces that invite the emotions to show up, to express anger or joy. We know how to create spaces that invite the will to show up, to consolidate effort and energy round a common task. And we surely know how to create spaces that invite the ego to show up, preening itself and claiming its turf! But we seem to know very little about creating spaces that invite the soul to show up, this core of ourselves, our selfhood.
—Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
What can I expect to come away with from a retreat following these guidelines and practices?
Participants in a Circle of Trust return to their homes, workplaces and communities, taking two important resources with them:
1) Greater access to the inner teacher and a new depth of self-knowledge, often resulting in a clearer sense of guidance for their personal and professional lives and a resolve to live closer to their core commitments.
2) Principles and practices from the Circle of Trust approach that can be applied to their daily lives.
As a result of participating in Circles of Trust, people report:
Where can I find out more about this?
The easiest place to learn more about this work is through the online resources and the approach outlined on the Center for Courage & Renewal website. For more about the Circle of Trust approach in theory and in practice, you can also read Parker Palmer's books. I particularly recommend A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004).
How did you get into this work?
A few years ago, I was writing and thinking about how important it is to be who we really are and to follow what I call "the deepest truth you know" in daily life. As I was pondering how this process works for individuals, I encountered Parker Palmer's work and his approach to cultivating deep insight and personal renewal in groups and in community. His work resonated strongly with me, and I attended my first Circle of Trust retreat in the summer of 2011 with my wife, Laurin, who is a critical care physician. At that retreat, I knew that this was work I wanted to offer to professionals and others bringing who they are and what they care about into their work and their lives. More than 250 facilitators in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom do this work, and I'm grateful to be one of them.