illustrated terrarium

caring for the container

illustrated terrarium


“Remember a women’s circle is not perfect…but if it holds its center when troubles arise and there is wisdom, love, honesty and room for making mistakes, the circle is more than “good enough.” It is a creative work in progress.”  ~ Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Millionth Circle

In Parker Palmer’s most recent book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker lifts up five “habits of the heart” which he says are critical to the health of our democracy: an understanding that we are all in this together, an appreciation of the value of “otherness,” an ability to hold tension in life-giving ways, sense of personal voice and agency, and a capacity to create community.

Care of the Container is a practice in which we take the time to intentionally reflect on the gifts and challenges our class. This is a time to release both the joys and the tensions we might be holding in, as well as an opportunity to participate in the ongoing co-creation of our class.

When we conduct a care of container, we remind ourselves what we bring to each other in the circle. We come to recognize that our greatest contribution to one another is two-fold, is both/and. That is the act of listening/speaking. We offer our voices in communion and in silence to support the voices of other writers. In essence, to listen is not the opposite of speaking but rather a manner of speaking that communicates: I hear you. You matter. Actually, in any given group, the majority of our time is spent listening.

As we worked through care of container, we split into three small groups to write the following found poems. We used the lines we wrote in the session and shuffled them to create new pieces that convey what exactly the group means to us and what we bring to each circle as equal and vital participants.

Help Her Find Her Way: It’s a Process of Discovery

We come with confidence to expand our horizons and remember
who we are. Let our souls speak without the risk of judgment.
Our inner thoughts, the puzzle pieces within life, matter.
Here we can empty the week’s pain from our souls
and write our way forward with determination. Here,
we escape our walls, take others places we go in our heads.
We bring all our words and memories; some things can’t be forgotten.
We can tell you life is messy and not get lost.
Within the safety of the group, we figure out something other than dark. Sometimes, that’s all we really need – to be heard and seen
through another’s eyes, neither disrespected nor dismissed.
We still have a voice to be heard.

We are in a continuum of history.


I love writing.
It’s a process of discovery.
I let my truest voice be heard
and allow growth for myself and others.
This space feels free of judgment.
Everyone’s thoughts do matter
and understanding life through each other’s eyes.
We each are more than who we are today.
A new start to many new beginnings.
It is here I am not alone,
a space to forget about being
behind these walls.


A place to express myself,
because I am judged all the time!

There are some things that
can’t be forgotten.
My body, it wanders.
I write to let me soul speak.

I can write the strength
of my character.
We all still have a voice
to be heard.

A unique point of view to the circle,
here, I can write my way forward
with determination.

This is life on the other side
of the world.

. . . and you?

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