The people sitting in a circle of comfortable chairs may talk about their personal challenges, the issues that affect them — a diagnosis of cancer, or their chronic pain or illness, or their grief at a loss. It’s a safe space, with companions who will listen without judgment and offer encouraging support.
It’s one of the small pieces of community that are at the heart of Healing Circles, a program in Langley offering ways for people to engage in intentional healing.
Diana Lindsay’s personal experience was the catalyst for the founding of Healing Circles, following her own diagnosis of stage four lung cancer in 2006 and her ultimate recovery.
“It’s now 12 years later,” Lindsay said. As she healed, she said, “I wanted to learn whether anything I had done could be helpful to others.”
Research and her conversations with other community members led her to believe that her social support had been key.
“It helps you live longer, feel better and happier,” she said. “We felt that the community was a big part in my healing.”
In 2013, Lindsay and her husband Kelly connected with Michael Lerner, founder of Commonweal, which is involved in the fields of health and healing, as well as other social issues.
“He agreed to work with us,” Lindsay said. The circles could be the way to provide the social support that had proved so important in her own recovery, to share the healing experience with others, she said. Healing Circles Langley became a program of Commonweal, which also supports Healing Circles in Houston and in a global program.
Established in 2015, Healing Circles Langley now has 600 visitors and 60 events a month, with 30 ongoing circles. Currently these encompass the issues of wellness, self-discovery, cancer, chronic illness and pain, aging, grief and loss, and caregiving.
Why a circle?
Lindsay described it as a wagon wheel with a center that holds everyone together.
“Everyone is on the same level to ask questions or share what’s important to them,” she said. The groups are open to all, and everything is confidential.
“We keep everyone safe.”
Each circle has a volunteer host, who assures courtesy and respect among the participants involved. While some volunteers have medical expertise, they don’t give medical advice.
The circles are set in a companionable old house designed to further the atmosphere of a healing sanctuary. Artists Carrie Whitney and Patti White worked with Lindsay to paint a “healing tree” on one of the walls, with branches named for various healing strategies and leaves added for more distinct therapies.
Around the corner is a shelf of “jars of gratitude” to be filled with thankful notes, and on another shelf is an opportunity for people to write about their fears or anxieties and feed them to a shredder.
Halfway up the stairs to the second floor, an almost hidden door leads to a space full of children’s toys and soft surroundings.
And outside, set in grounds that overlook the waters of Saratoga Passage, stands a sculpture created by artist Colin Flanagan.
In addition to Healing Circles, there are Learning Circles on topics of interest such as Qigong and meditation, as well as classes, community conversations and presentations, such as The Poetic Apothecary event on Sept. 25 about poetry in healing.
There are circles for men, treatment sessions in therapeutic touch, Circles of Caring for bereaved parents, a circle of “Soup and Solace,” for anyone going through the grieving process.
Discovery Circles use poetry, writing and art in the exploration of grief and healing. There are also Circles of Two on a drop-in basis, where volunteers listen, share advice and point out additional resources. And for those who simply need a time for quiet and reflection, or to meditate or write, drop-in Circles of One offer a warmly welcoming place with perhaps a cup of tea. Drop-in hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. most Mondays through Wednesdays.
All circles and events are free or by donation.
Any practitioners who offer classes do so pro bono. Healing Circles is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Healing Circles Langley has now begun its fall season, and a calendar on its website has a full listing of what is being offered. Visitors are welcome whenever the space is open.
Healing Circles, 534 Camano Ave., Langley (across from WICA) 360-221-4101 www.healingcircleslangley.org