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What We Do

Jonathan’s circles are small groups, ideally of eight to ten men.  Six is a viable number, and a total of twelve suggests two groups of six.  The size of a group is quite important, because bonding, trust, and depth of relationships are all integral to the experience.  And experience is key.  Jonathan’s Circle is not a discussion group, where men do what men do so well:  stay in our heads.  It is about experiencing in our bodies, often in the simplest ways, the power that exists in our depths—power frequently layered over by the tremendous burden of having to prove ourselves to our parents, our wives and lovers, our children, to other males, and to our society.  


Each Jonathan’s circle organizes itself according to a set of common guidelines, within the context of which a group is free to set its own agenda, establish many of its own norms and habits, and select its own membership.  We are consistent with the goals and parameters of the overall organization while exercising as much flexibility as possible in encouraging each group to meet the needs of its individual members.  Jonathan’s Circle is guided by a code of ethics to ensure the integrity and safety of each group, its facilitators, and its individual participants.


How a Circle Spends Meeting Time

To see what a typical circle covers in four to six months, click here.


The Body—Where Sex and Spirit Live


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“I am more interested in the soul than in the body.  But talking about the soul implies talking about its container, the body.  While trying to understand the body, you may learn more about the soul.” 

Jaume Plensa, Spanish sculptor, on his exhibit “Together,” 9 May - 22 November 2015, Curated by Clare Lilley, in the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

 

Almost all sessions include light touch within the general framework of respect for individual boundaries.  Men encourage each other to let their preferences, limits, and boundaries be known, and it is expected that men not be pressured to experience or participate in anything that transgresses their personal boundaries.  On the other hand, men in Jonathan’s Circle challenge each other to examine and stretch their limits, to experiment and practice new behavior.  And, as the guidelines show, a major part of Jonathan’s Circle is welcoming challenge and being challenging for the sake of one’s own and others' growth.  

In addition to body-focused exercises, in our circle meetings we explore various ways of centering and focusing our minds, including meditation techniques; silent, verbal, and sung prayers from many traditions; listening to music; engaging in drumming and other forms of music-making.  Members of circles frequently contribute practices from their individual repertoires or from their ethnic, religious, or spiritual traditions.

It has always deeply disappointed me that the Christian religion was the only one that believed God became a human body, and yet we have had such deficient and frankly negative attitudes toward embodiment, the physical world, sexuality, emotions, animals, wonderful physical practices like yoga, and nature itself. We want to do spirituality all in the head. It often seems to me that Western Christianity has been much more formed by Plato (body and soul are at war) than by Jesus (body and soul are already one). For many of us, the body is more repressed and denied than even the mind or the heart. It makes both presence and healing quite difficult, because the body, not just our mind, holds our memories.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps


Since body shame is a huge issue for a number of men (regardless of age, body type, or sexuality), Jonathan’s circles are free to experiment with clothing-optional sessions.  Experience shows that the idea of Jonathan’s divesting himself of his armor is an important image for laying aside clothing and other facets of persona (work identity, for example) in order for men to interact as authentic individuals willing to trust each other, not fearing rejection, shame, humiliation, or negative comparisons.  Men in Jonathan’s Circles encourage each other to affirm and to celebrate their bodies.

HE WAS NAKED. In broad daylight. In church. He had taken off all his clothing—in front of the local bishop, in front of his neighbors and peers, and in front of his angry father. He now stood before them all. “I shall go naked to meet my naked Lord,” he said. We know him as St. Francis, but at that moment he was just Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone, a young man on trial in the portico of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Assisi, Italy. Standing there self-exposed, he must have seemed more like a candidate for involuntary hospitalization than elevation to sainthood. His father was a prosperous merchant of fine fabrics, an appreciating commodity at the beginning of the thirteenth century, when dressing up was becoming more and more essential for those wishing to ascend the socioeconomic ladder. He had accused Francis of selling some of his merchandise to raise money for a church renovation project. Since that fabric had indeed been sold and the proceeds invested in Francis’s mission, Francis had nothing to offer in restitution. So he gave his father everything he had, his money, the shirt off his back, and the rest of his garments, saying, “I give you not only my money, but also my clothes.” In so doing, Francis stripped off this earthly identity and clothed himself in a more primal and primary identity as God’s unclothed creature, God’s naked and vulnerable child.

Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words (HarperCollins e-books, Kindle edition, 2011, location 76ff.)


Could it be that the reason the world knows so few St. Francises is that so few of us know how take off our masks, our personas, and dare to be who we truly are?  “And they were naked,” says the Genesis tale of the first people, “and were not ashamed.”  In Jonathan’s circle, we practice being present to each other without pretense, fear, or worry.

Questions or concerns about any aspects of Jonathan’s circles?  Just ask.


Retreats and Workshops

Jonathan’s Circle both sponsors retreats, both residential and non-residential, for members and networks with other organizations and individuals who lead retreats. Topics vary from bodywork to meditation, from traditional silent retreats to weekends for hanging out.  Check our events page to see current and upcoming retreats and workshops.


Training

Facilitators are leaders of Jonathan’s Circles.  While we believe that men are fully capable of meeting in small groups and taking responsibility for themselves and their own growth, our organization is invested in leadership development.  We offer periodic online and personal training in the form of coaching, feedback, and support. For further information on Frank Dunn’s background as a coach, counselor, and trainer, visit his website, frankgdunn.com.  Other credentialed trainers participate in developing excellent leaders in Jonathan’s Circle.  For further information, contact us here.


Courses

Designed especially for men who have participated in a circle and who want to reflect more deeply on the connection of sex and spirit, we will soon be announcing courses that can be taken online as well as in local groups.  Watch our website on this page, and subscribe to “Circling” to stay abreast of learning opportunities as they occur.


  © Frank Dunn 2014