Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Three, Issue Eight: Restorative Circles

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

This month's theme is Restorative Circles: Re-Discovering the Healing Power of Community. This process to help a community re-connect when some harm has been done was first developed by NVC certified trainer Dominic Barter in Brazil, where it is being used in a wide variety of places, including the criminal justice system, schools, faith-based groups and community based organizations. Several people from Maine have been studying and practicing this process for several years.

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Restorative Circles: Re-Discovering the Healing Power of Community

by Howard Evans

Conflict seems to be an element of living in this human realm. We find it in our family life, at work, in school, in community and in our world. We don’t agree about things. We want to know we’re right. We want justice.

As I have sought out new paradigms for living, seeking a way into the future that saves us from total environmental, economic and political collapse, I was introduced to new ways to address conflict – first NVC and then Restorative Circles.

Nonviolent Communication shows us how to shift our thinking to allow for deep listening and for taking 100% responsibility for our experience in each moment. As we listen, as we are present with one another, we hear the needs alive in us both and can touch the universality of those needs. We see that we’re all doing our best. Instead of figuring out who’s right or who’s to blame, we let go into an undefended awareness of what’s alive in each of us. We let go into the moment.

Out of this NVC vision has grown the work of Restorative Circles (RC), a process developed first in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro by Dominic Barter. Now RC continues to be developed collaboratively by Dominic and by the people who are using it in a wide variety of situations and institutions.

In Maine, Restorative Circles has been growing for more than three years. Several in our NVC community have now trained with Dominic and many more are in groups who are adopting RC as a tool for working with conflict. Now, from this excitement and experience in Maine, a one-day workshop on November 3, 2012, will share the essential elements of this paradigm shifting approach to conflict. details

Thich Nhat Hanh says, "In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change." What that means to me is stepping towards disagreement and conflict without believing either that I’m right, that you’ve caused me harm in some way, or that I’m bad and wrong for harming you. In a dialogue where we really listen and let the other know that we heard what they said, a situation can get unstuck and strategies for healing and movement become more available. Restorative Circles provide a structure so that this type of listening can happen. RC speaks of ‘re-humanizing’ a situation, a re-awakening of our ability to look at the other and to see another human being in his or her essence. In this way we see each other more and more as parts of a whole. We protect and strengthen community.

I believe that our culture has increased our sense of isolation, increasing fear and the experience of separation. I found that both for myself and others, focusing on past victimization and powerlessness, we place blame outside ourselves and justify our retributive reactivity and add to the misery and separation in this world. Yet, when Rumi invites us to a meeting "out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing," we feel the pull to join hands and discover the path to that field together.

Personally, this search has had a profound impact on my life. Because I had acted in particularly unskillful ways, I chose to do deep healing work. In that process I discovered the power of sitting in circle with others, exploring feelings and needs – listening to each other. Learning NVC and being in a regular practice group, then participating each month in an RC practice group, have shifted how I work with conflict.

Now, with my wife, when we get stuck in conflict, we often sit down and spend real time, measured often in hours, looking to understand the thinking, feelings and needs we are each holding, reflecting our understanding of each other, expressing regret and mourning, and creating actions that support repair and connection.

The Three Questions at the Heart of Restorative Circles: An Overview of a Restorative Circle

The formal RC process works something like this: Everyone comes to an RC circle understanding why the circle was called and agreeing ahead of time to use the RC process. Each person called to the circle also gets to say who else might need to be present to help things get unstuck. Everyone arrives with an understanding of a pivot point, an act, around which the circle has been called.

Facilitators, usually two, gather everyone together. The circle, then, is made up of community members – those called who are impacted in some way by the act. Among them are an actor and a receiver, the people identified as pivotal to the perceived conflict, though sometimes even those roles can seem blurry. Stepping away from the more common perceptions about perpetrators and victims, we head towards a meeting in Rumi’s field – out beyond right-doing and wrong-doing.

The process unfolds, in a somewhat linear fashion, through three questions. The first is, "What would you like known, and by whom, about how you are right now in relation to the act and its consequences?" Someone speaks first and, directing what he or she says to another in the circle, receives a reflection of what was heard and then says whether that was what s/he wanted heard. When that first speaker has been heard, another person speaks and receives reflection. This continues until everyone has been heard.

The second question, "What would you like known, and by whom, about what you were looking for when you chose to act, or with how you chose to respond when you learned about the act?" shifts the focus from mutual comprehension to self-responsibility. The same reflective process follows with everyone having a chance to speak.

The third question comes at a point when what needs to be said seems to have been said and heard, usually a couple of hours into the circle process. The facilitator asks, "What would you like to see happen next? What would you like to offer and/or request?" With someone recording what is said and agreed to, a plan is written that represents the outcome for that circle.

Meeting two weeks or a month afterwards, the circle participants get to look at their action plan and see what happened, and, perhaps, what they would like to see happen next.


Suggestions for Further Practice

  1. Participate in Restorative Circles: A Community Process for Supporting Those in Conflict. This one-day workshop will be held in Belfast on November 3, 2012. Register now and mark your calendar. Fee is by donation and based only on basic costs. Grab a copy of the flyer here and post it where you can.

  2. Lots of resources and videos of Dominic Barter, RC’s founder, speaking about the power of RC from his own experience can be found here.

  3. Watch the movie Thrive that is mentioned in the feature article.

For me, RC is a tool that supports this kind of connection and is something we need, now and in the future, as we build new pathways for ourselves and for our children. I’ve watched the movie Thrive several times and one part that touches me is the image of community justice handled by neighbors with neighbors that aims at the preservation of the bonds upon which our shared existence depends, free from external power and authority.

So, what is RC exactly and why come to a day-long workshop? I’ve felt the power of sitting in a circle, an RC circle, reflecting back what someone else had to say to me, even when what they said was difficult for me to hear. I have witnessed change in me and in others just from following the process. Even the commitment to be in a circle opens a doorway. We discover the healing and power that lies within real community. Free from working to assign blame, community, our essential interconnectedness, is served.

It seems so bare bones, so simple, yet what I have seen over and over is how powerful it is for speaker and listener and for the whole of the circle. The facilitators say little, keeping people on the question and making space for the reflection to happen. It seems simple and mirrors the values of the world we are working to create.

When we’re still in the mindset of conflict as something involving person A harming person B, then resolution is about determining who is right and how punishment and accountability will be meted out. The value of Restorative Circles appears when we shift the focus from the individuals to the whole of the community – when everyone is held in the circle. Connection and community are the power and strength of who we are. We look to the whole rather than to the protection only of our individual selves.

Restorative systems, according to my practice group, "help create conditions under which people impacted by painful conflict can move towards re-humanization of each other, increase collective responsibility for the conflict, and agree as a community on actions that address underlying needs and values." For me that’s a powerful statement indeed. It’s NVC in action.

As our group has grown and matured through practice in both real and simulated circles, we have come to a place where we want to share with others. Restorative Circles and the pioneering work of Dominic Barter have deeply touched many and the movement grows – a part of the unfolding consciousness that allows for a future to be possible.

Howard Evans, member of the Maine NVC Network state-wide Steering Committee and member of the Midcoast Restorative Circles Practice Group, lives in Blue Hill, ME

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Upcoming Trainings

Trainings listed here are in the Maine region. If you wish to list an event, please follow our guidelines for submission. Please note that both certified and non-certified trainers, (who are willing to follow certain requirements of the Center for Nonviolent Communication), may be leading the posted trainings. Listing here does not imply endorsement by the Maine NVC Network of the trainer or the event.

Sept. 21 - 23, Unity, ME
Come visit the Maine NVC Network booth at the Common Ground Fair.

Find us in the Social & Political Action Area. There will be a talk about restorative practices Friday afternoon and another talk on NVC based Empathy Saturday morning at 9.


Sept. 29-30, Ellsworth, ME
BePeace Practice: Creating Peace in Yourself
Presented by Paula Guarnaccia,
Certified BePeace Teacher & HeartMath Educator

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Oct. 27-28, Norway, ME
Connecting Across Differences: the NVC journey

Offered by Peggy Smith / email for details

November 3, Belfast, ME
Restorative Circles: Re-Discovering the Healing Power of Community

Presented by the Linda Cote-Small & Kristi Kirkham
details and registration


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8 Months of Deepening NVC Consciousness:
the Maine NVC Integration Program
Opening My Heart—Opening Communication
An Intermediate NVC Experience

Five Themed Retreats spread over an 8 month period,
September 2012 to May 2013

11 days of direct instruction with Certified NVC Trainer Peggy Smith and NVC Mediation Program graduate Leah Boyd

Between retreats learning community includes:

Move NVC from a concept to practical integration while staying close to home.

details and registration

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Invitation to
Empathy Circles

WEEKLY: Mondays 10-11:30 am, Belfast
FMI contact Marshall or Carolyn:
Phone 338-0842

MONTHLY: First Friday of each month
at The Start Center, 37 Start Rd, Camden
You are welcome to come when you can.
FMI contact Linda:
Phone 563-6712 / email



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The group is moderated and is only used for announcements of regional workshops and other Maine NVC Network events. Inclusion in list serve announcements does not imply endorsement by the Network.


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To learn more, email our volunteer coordinator.

The Sad Game

Keeps the sad game going.
It keeps stealing all your wealth–
Giving it to an imbecile with
No financial skills.
Dear one,

– Hafiz



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