Prisons of our own making

Peter Munthe-Kaas
5 min readApr 28, 2023

Something that has felt alive in me recently is how the realities we live in are prisons of our own making. We live and move in worlds made up by rules that we ourselves have made up.

“I shouldn’t do…”
“It would be shameful to..:”
“They will reject me if I…”

An experience I often have in Circling (and in life) is that people (including myself) are afraid of having a negative impact on others. We hold back the truth of our experience because we think that it will hurt the other or somehow fall back on ourselves in a negative way.

Interestingly, it is rarely considered that there is also an impact from being passive or not bringing forth the truth of our experience. Oftentimes this leads to distance, feeling lonely or maybe even unwanted. We also leave the connection and the opportunity to meet the other in what is really there for us.

Circling as a practice makes these patterns more visible for me and allows me to see the ways in which I am holding myself back. Sometimes I am also able to go further and dare to share something that I believe will have an unpleasant impact. This is one of many reasons that I find the practice profound — it allow me to move towards freedom and truth in my life.

One way of holding the Circling practice is that everything that happens in the Circle is a mirror of how I am living my life, including where I am holding back my lifeforce, where I am acting from fear, where I am frozen and so on. It feels important to me that Circling is just this, a practice that points to how I can lead my everyday life and my relationships more skilfully — or in other words with more freedom, truth and love.

Society of the spectacle

I recently rediscovered Guy Debord’s concept of “the society of the spectacle”, a critique of the way in which our society is focused on image to a degree where “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation” and where he sees “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.”

You can imagine it like this with Yoga as the example:
- Someone being deeply immersed in yoga in their everyday life (Yoga is connected to their being in the world).
- Someone who is serious about their yoga practice (already here there is a subtle move away from the principle into the form)
- Someone who participates in yoga lessons once a week (here yoga is largely a having. Something that is consumed)
- Someone who posts pictures of themselves doing yoga on social media while not really practicing (here you have the image disconnected from the reality of the practice not to speak of the living principle the practice is pointing to).

You can find the wiki article on Society of the Spectacle here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Society_of_the_Spectacle

With this framework there is a risk that Circling could become a way of replacing real intimacy and connection in our lives with the “intimacy with strangers” in the workshop space. Here intimacy is performed as an image of what is supposed to be at the center of our lives. It is very clear for me that I do not want my workshops to be places where people come to seek intimacy because it is hard to find in their everyday lives. Circling is not a replacement for “real” intimacy with family, friends and community. I want my workshops to be places where people come to discover for themselves how their lives can be richer if they let go of some of the limiting beliefs that they hold about themselves.

In that way the Circling practice becomes revolutionary as it revitalizes the capacity to live fully with more presence, aliveness and connection. For me a very central aspect of the Circling practice is that it points me to qualities that I want to embody more in everyday life.

Freedom. Truth. Love.

One way I approach Circling is to see it through the lens of freedom, truth and love — three interconnected aspects of the practice that I find deeply beautiful and that seems to be at the center of my commitment to the practice.

Freedom
Exploring freedom through Circling has for me been a journey of noticing myself not doing what I really want to — holding back. It has been a process of feeling stuckness based on a belief that my truth is not welcome, often coming with an idea that I might hurt someone, that I might be rejected or that someone might get angry with me. For me this noticing how I am not free has been invaluable and when I lead Circling these days I often emphasize that the frustration that many participants can feel in a circle holds an important message — often it simply points to the innocence or life force that is being held back. I have still to find another practice that teaches me such deep lessons about freedom. For me exploring freedom is closely connected to learning to trust my experience more and moving with it — being with my truth from moment to moment.

Truth
A relatively recent discovery for me has been how much truth means for me and how beautiful it is to tell the truth. Here I am not pointing to the idea of revealing secrets but rather the “truth in the moment”. When we talk about “owning experience” in Circling it is very much about truth for me. It doesn’t mean revealing everything that is going on in me or telling on myself. Rather it is about finding the often very simple thing that I want to express which is rarely as complex as my mind tries to make it. When I started Circling I would spend a lot of time pointing at my truth by revealing nervousness, resistance or fear, but when I look back now what I was doing was to a large extent bringing an outer layer (the reasons why I wasn’t bringing my truth) rather than speaking the simple truth from love.

Love
For me love is about bringing myself into connection without making myself or the person I am relating to wrong. I have often found myself in situations where it has felt like either I or the other person needs to change before there can be love. But recently something has changed for me. I have realized that “commitment to connection” doesn’t mean that I have to stay in something that I don’t want to be in. Rather it is about finding the right distance for love which can mean being very close in some situations and moving further away in others. Circling has taught me that everything and everyone can be held in love — if I hold myself and my boundaries in love at the same time. Being with love means trusting what feels true for me and the freedom to move with it.

I want to lead a life with more freedom, truth and love and through Circling I feel like I have received deep transmissions of how to do just that.

--

--

Peter Munthe-Kaas

I am a Copenhagen based researcher of urban development, workshop facilitator and body therapist. In all my work I focus on sensitivity and relating.