My journey in Circling – and what I learned in the process

I realised recently that I do not often share my story of how I got into Circling: what pulled me to the practice, and what path I have walked in learning about, implementing and finally leading people in this relational journey, deeper home to themselves and their connection to others.

Well, as most of my journeys (used to) start: I started of with a shit ton of resistance.

About nine years ago my then boyfriend connected to this guy called Guy Sengstock, and ended up talking to him every Friday evening for a year (!). At that time we lived together and he was always exploring new things around consciousness. I was often resistant to yet another thing he got excited about and wanted to share with me, and Circling was no different (and bless him, I thanked him later for all the beautiful things he brought into my life, that did drop in later)

His explorations with ‘this guy’ got him all riled up and it led to him inviting him to come teach in the UK. He organised the whole thing with two friends. At that point I was simultaneously pissed of, because all our Friday evenings had been booked for a long time, and yet, I was also curious. So I ended up road tripping to Kent with a dear friend, also a girlfriend of one of the organisers. This was in 2011.

When I experienced Circling that weekend, things fell into place. And I got hooked. Instantly.

I realised the things I am good at (tuning in, being curious about people, sensing things), that often did not seem to fit in my daily life, made sense in Circling. Here was a crew of people who wanted to connect – really – on the level of depth that I loved. I also saw some of my defense mechanisms against exactly the level of connection I wanted, clearly.

I met some amazing human beings. That I am still in connection with.

We went home and started geeking out on Circling hard: Circling in our living rooms, trying stuff out, connecting with the occasional stranger who came to Amsterdam and had also heard of Circling (yes!) and slowly, very slowly building a tiny tribe. I met some of the founders of Circling, some of the early adapters, and half a year later we were in Kent again.

After that things sped up: our relationship ended, I ended a long intense contract in the cultural sector and took of to Southeast Asia for two and a half months. To train Shaolin Kungfu and Chi Kung with my grandmaster in Malaysia, to train meditation in Thailand and to ‘just be’ in Bali. That whole trip was really intense: a combination of beautiful experiences, heart break, near burn out and dark night of the soul experiences. It also got me closer to myself, and even though it was tough, I also learned a lot. And in the midst of all that I had a profound insight: I needed to start doing this work (Circling) and connect my past network to this new practice. I had no idea how.

And yet, I went home shortly after and flew to Norway a few weeks later that for the first Circling community weekend in Europe ever. And that was one hell of a weekend, again.

Along with many amazing creatures from all over the planet, I met my business partner there and started co-leading Authentic Europe (the European branche of Authentic World).

Decker Cunov and Robert Macnaughton came to Europe 3 months after that and our first big event was a fact. I co-led that with Decker and many of the European community in what I mostly describe as the steepest learning curve I ever experienced. It was amazing, and also one of the hardest things I have ever done – and I am pointing towards the integration of that experience.

That is exactly where I started learning about integration and the importance of taking time, and having support, in making sense of all that happens inside during and after stepping into leadership.

What followed were many workshops, trainings, connections, community circles in my home and slowly building our community.

It was an exciting, very-close-to-life-and-my-exploration-of-it-and-myself, time.

It was also a hard time: I often felt lonely as a leader. I created so much connection for others and I missed peer support and mentoring in that process. I also got to see where I resisted support or never actually reached out for fear of rejection.

It was also a messy time: lots of us were building businesses, and themes of scarcity/abundance, generosity, contraction, “what is safety?”, figuring out where one type of Circling business differed from the other and where we were the same ensued. It was messy indeed, and I often joke that the whole spiral (Spiral Dynamics) got involved; from evolved perspectives to young scared parts, from orange business building and competition to green inclusion and shared visions. And everything in between and beyond.

I distinctly remember often feeling frustrated and wanting to look more at the similarities than the differences and wanting to bang some (male) heads together. I was one of the few female leaders in Europe at that time (but definitely not the only one) and got frustrated with what I then perceived as the “masculine turf war”. And yet I had my own patterns to look at and work with: wanting harmony and inclusion so I felt better, and generally being busier with others than myself (Enneagram 2 classic).

So I stepped back.

I seperated from my business partner: that container had become more restricting than nourishing to me. And I needed to venture out on my own.

That is when I started ConnectionLab, in early 2015.

I was terrified, because I never had done something like this on my own. And yet I felt really clearly that I needed to do this, and especially look deeply at some of my dynamics with the men in this community, to look at my relationship with the masculine in general and be my own woman. Whatever that meant. Whatever I needed.

I started coaching – something I had been wanting to do for a long time and felt I needed to have enough life experience under my belt for – and loved doing it. To this day it is one of my deep passions, to support people in their journeys of creating deeper connection to themselves, others, and what they want (to create).

I created the Art of Connection weekends with two dear friends and held weekends in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. We started training people to lead Circling. We loved working together and did everything exactly how we wanted it. We worked through so much of our stuff to be able to be as fully present with the groups as we could. We laughed our asses off, stayed in conection through cluncky and triggering times and grew so much together. And at some point we all realised we were done with weekends and leading Circling.

And so we stepped back.

I got to focus on building my coaching business, and learning over and over what I needed to learn to be of better service to my clients. I learned my limits and were I could own my own power and insight more. I learned how I loved to work with people: in trajectories of 6 months, to really have time for change and integration and lasting transformation. I built my own support system to a depth and quality that I am still baffled by at times. I loved. I learned. I fucked up. I tried again. I found limiting beliefs. I realised I was human and that we are all just doing something and figuring stuff out along the way.

I also trained in intimacy, explored tantra, and learned about trauma and attachment styles.

And then, in 2018, I found myself at the Integral Europe Conference, leading an intro to Circling after many years not leading any. Together with my best friend. And we nailed it: we got over 30 people to experience Circling and what it feels like to deeper connect to yourself and the people around you, in 75 minutes.

I loved doing that. I realised I was good at it. And I realised I had missed this.

I also knew that I did not want to go back to ‘just’ doing weekends; that I wanted to support people in transformation through the practice of Circling; to work long term in small groups and really dive into blind spots ánd sweet spots in our personal leadership.(one thing I consistently have found in both myself and others is that we consistently undervalue ourselves).

And so I created Find Your Flavour – Circling Leadership Training. My version of how to lead Circling well, and work with whatever comes up in that process (because if I learned anything in all these years is that this practice will bring up a lot of your stuff), and to have copious amounts of support in the process. Six months, six people, a deep dive into you and your leadership. We are almost finishing our second round, and the third round starts in October.

I also reinstated the Art of Connection weekends, with a stellar team of dear friends and fellow life explorers. Because we love offering this form of the practice to (new) people, and happen to love working together as well. Our next one is coming up in September.

And through all that I am still coaching, passionately, and consistently.

And the more I learn, the more humble I feel. The less I know – or think I know – the more I am willing to step into this mystery of life, while simultaneously honouring my power more deeply, ánd seeing my limits more clearly.

It is freeing. It is fun. I feel softer, more at ease, and more okay with stumbling.

This practice, while far from being a saviour or a fix-for-all, has brought me into deeper connection with my own humanity, and my divinity at the same time.

I feel grateful I stumbled onto it all those years ago and decided to get my head out of my ass, step in that car and drive to that first weekend.

And thank you Joel for introducing me.

Love,
Anke

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Coach, trainer & lover of all things human and relational. Supporting you in finding a deeper connection to yourself & others, so you can truly lead, wherever you are.

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