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Healing Circles for Change

Our Team

nora

Nora Yasumura, MSW Healing Circle Coordinator

Contact: Healingcircles@tsuruforsolidarity.org 

Our trained facilitators are committed to creating safe and non-judgmental virtual spaces for participants to find shared connections, support, and an opportunity to process their experiences in the caring presence of others. During a healing circle, we come together in small reflective groups (between 6 – 15 participants) to explore a specific pre-determined topic. For two hours, our facilitators guide a structured process by first inviting each person to introduce themselves and share their stories for a set period of time without interruption. Participants are asked to listen and affirm each other with empathy and presence. We see empathy as the ability to listen to someone’s story through the speaker’s perspective, without making assumptions. We see presence as the ability to listen with full attention to the speaker. Listeners become a mirror for each speaker. After listening to each other, participants are invited to further reflect on the stories they hear from others. The act of gathering together in a healing circle can strengthen our commitment to each other and build a community united in both diversity and solidarity.

Request a healing circle

Given Tsuru for Solidarity’s mission to close all U.S. concentration camps, build solidarity with other communities of color that have experienced forced removal, detention, deportation, separation of families, and to hold cross-community healing circles addressing the trauma of our shared histories, our priority of healing circles requests will be given to:

  • Communities of color experiencing detention, displacement, and incarceration and/or live with the violence and trauma of oppression, equity, and social power dynamics that can include racism, sexism, heterosexism, and ableism
  • In solidarity as healers, we are committed to building intersectional relationships with communities of color.
  • Support healing processes in Nikkei communities. 

Apply to be a Healing Circles Facilitator

Are you interested in becoming a Healing Circles Facilitator volunteer for Tsuru for Solidarity? 

We hold the 4 hour new facilitator training program several times a year. Sign up here to get on our waitlist and arrange a time to talk with some about your interest in our Healing Circles model. 

Please note that our facilitator training is reserved for only BIPOC identified individuals because we believe that having BIPOC facilitators serve as important role models for the Healing Circles in our mission to build towards a more just society.

Impact

Frequently Asked Questions

Talking circles, or healing circles, though practiced in many cultures across the world, are deeply rooted in the traditional practices of indigenous cultures. Restorative Justice spaces have also used healing circles for community processing in multiple forms.

Tsuru for Solidarity’s “Healing Circles for Change” model was developed by Dr. Satsuki Ina, following direct actions at detention sites. Through listening to one another’s story without judgment, we found these gatherings created a sense of shared empowerment and a deeper understanding of ourselves and one another. It also lessened the isolation around the intersectional violence of our histories and strengthened our commitment to future joint actions. In addition, Tsuru for Solidarity members have reported a sense of healing from the deep fractures that have divided our own community as a result of the WWII U.S. concentration camps, and we have found that other groups have experienced parallel benefits related to their own experiences. Solidarity in sharing this kind of rare space also helps build relationships and trust so that we can better stand with one another in the face of injustice. See this document for additional information about our model.

Participating in Healing Circles for Change is an opportunity for people who have experienced, in all of its complexities, the collective, historic trauma of oppression. Healing Circles for Change is a sacred space and time where participants sit together in a circle, face to face with one another, holding the positive intention to create a safe place for each person to share their story.

No. They’re reflective groups that utilize an intentional structure to invite participants to share, listen, and affirm their experiences on a particular topic without judgment.

All of our virtual healing circles have two trained facilitators. For each group, we usually have between 5 to 15 participants. It is also helpful to know that on any given date, we will hold multiple simultaneous smaller healing circles during the same designated date and time.

Healing circles are 2 hours long. 

Below are the key components of all of our healing circles.

Opening the Circle

Facilitators begin by setting the intention to explore the predetermined topic together, beginning with a specific prompt. They also give an overview and set group norms.

Sharing Our Stories

During the healing circle, we take turns sharing, affirming, and listening to one another’s experiences. Each person is provided a set amount of time to share (without interruption) their own story related to the prompt while others are asked to be fully present and listen with empathy, deep appreciation, and non-judgment.

Weaving of Our Experiences

Before someone shares their own experience, they’re asked to take a moment to “weave” their experience with the person before them. This means that they share a brief statement about how they could relate to what was shared, what they appreciated, or what stood out to them. Weaving serves multiple purposes. It allows the listener to take the time to reflect upon what was shared and it enables the person who shared to experience what it feels like to be seen and heard in an affirming manner. This exchange has healing properties because it is the seed of restoring interpersonal trust and creating meaningful empathetic connections. These connections position us to further explore expanded ways to be in better solidarity with one another.

Validating Each Other

During the healing circle, we also provide time for participants to further share new insights. This reinforces new possibilities for movement individually and as a collective.

Closing the Circle

At the end of the time together, the facilitators invite all participants to briefly reflect upon how they’re feeling after participating in the intentional sharing, listening, and affirming process. To close the circle, the facilitators summarize what was shared and appreciate everyone’s willingness to be an active part of the circle. Our group sends a follow up anonymous survey after all healing circles.

Our purpose is to hold an open, accountable, and compassionate space. Below are some agreements we have created. (Thank you to Women & Taiko and Black Lives Matter Greater Burlington for providing the reference foundation for this document).

Inclusion

  • Embrace all members and cherish diversity of race, age, ethnicity, national origin, range of abilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, financial means, and education.

Confidentiality

  • Share the message, not the personal information.
  • Do not tell another’s stories or struggles without consent.

Transparency

  • Be open about your intentions & what you hope to offer and receive.
  • Be honest when sharing information and giving its context.
  • Participate in dialogues with kindness and compassion.

Conflict and Openness

  • Reject binary thinking about “right” and “wrong.” 
  • No one knows everything; together we know a lot.
  • Create a space for multiple truths and embrace curiosity. 
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s okay to step out.

Take Responsibility

  • Use ‘I’ statements to own your feelings & perspectives.
  • Do not assume you are able to speak to the intentions of others.

Participation

  • One person speaks at a time.
  • Take Space, Make Space – be mindful of how much you speak, please leave space for others to speak. 
  • Share gratitude or feedback with speakers for sharing their experience. 

Zoom Etiquette

  • Do your best to be in a place with reliable internet connection and limited disruptions.
  • Our healing circles are interactive, do what you can to have your camera on the entire time.
  • Use the Zoom “hand-raise” option if you would like to speak. 
  • Please keep yourself on mute if you are not speaking.

Yes. All of our healing circle facilitators have gone through a 4 hour training. We also hold regular practice sessions for our facilitators as they are refining their skills and continuing to gain new insights on a number of related topics. 

 

Our format is to provide structured opportunities for each participant to share their stories and experiences with others. We strongly encourage active participation but participants can choose to pass if they do not feel ready to share when initially prompted. During our virtual healing circles, all participants are asked to be in a location where they can have reliable internet connection, limited distractions, and have their videos on in order to take turns sharing, listening, and affirming one another. 

At the very beginning of the healing circle, the co-facilitators will mention how important it is that we all respect the confidentiality and privacy of those who are present. To maintain respect and integrity, we also ask that people do not talk about specific people who are not part of the circle. In addition, we remind people not to share specific information with others outside of the circle but encourage them to discuss themes that they came away with. 

This is a good question. Occasionally, someone may feel like the topic is bringing up emotions and they would find it helpful to take a break. In the beginning of the healing circles, our facilitators let all participants know that if needed one of them can go into a breakout room with them to check in and provide support. However, it is our experience that most of the time the empathic environment of the group provides enough support that people often elect to stay in the group. 

We aim to do our best to make our virtual healing circles accessible for all. We email participants information ahead of time so that they can take the time to read materials and so that we can identify how best to solve any challenges that may impact their ability to engage fully in the process. We offer live zoom automatic transcription services and we can hire a translator for multiple languages with some advanced notice. 

We often hear that participants come away feeling more connected, hopeful, appreciated, accepted, seen and heard without judgment, energized, open, moved, supported, respected, and more grounded. 

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